There are 'many moving parts' with student-loan forgiveness but the process to get relief will be 'better than people expect,' Biden's Education Secretary says

There are 'many moving parts' with student-loan forgiveness but the process to get relief will be 'better than people expect,' Biden's Education Secretary says
US Education Secretary Miguel CardonaMANDEL NGAN / Getty Images
  • Education Sec. Miguel Cardona said student-loan forgiveness will roll out "better than people expect."
  • He said he is working hard to ensure the process to get relief is as smooth as possible.

President Joe Biden's recent student-loan forgiveness announcement is an unprecedented move — but his Education Secretary said borrowers shouldn't worry about its implementation.

At the end of August, Biden announced up to $20,000 in debt cancellation for federal borrowers making under $125,000 a year. While it was a long-awaited policy and something the president promised on his campaign trail, it generated a number of questions for borrowers wondering if they are eligible for the relief, and how they can get it.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona told NPR in a recent interview that while this is the first time the department has carried out relief on such a large scale, it's prepared to roll out a smooth process for all qualifying borrowers.

"Just like there was no playbook for reopening schools, there was no playbook sitting anywhere on how to [cancel student loans]. But we're going to do it, and we're going to do it better than people expect," Cardona said.

"We want to make sure that it's a simple process, an easy process where those who are eligible get the loan relief that they are entitled to," he added. "So, early October, and we expect the process to be a smooth process, a simple process, a quick process."


After announcing the relief, the department said that while eight million borrowers should automatically receive relief if their income information is readily available, others will have to take action to apply through a form that should become live in early October allowing them to self-certify their incomes. While Cardona told NPR he did not have a specific timeline to share regarding when exactly borrowers can begin applying, he recommended the submission of forms prior to November 15 to ensure relief can hit borrowers' accounts before payments resume in January 2023.

Still, while Cardona has maintained the department is ready to implement Biden's debt relief smoothly, student-loan companies have expressed concerns with the minimal guidance from the department on next steps. Navient CEO Jack Remondi, for example, said the announcement has created "all types of confusion" for borrowers with lingering questions on eligibility, and the company is awaiting further information from the department on steps borrowers will need to take to access relief.

Companies also warned the department prior to the announcement that errors with implementation of debt cancellation are likely to arise given the policy was declared on such short notice. Still, Cardona said he is aware of those concerns, and the department is acting accordingly to ensure relief will get to borrowers as efficiently as possible.

"Well, look, we recognize how many moving parts are here," he said. "And we've been thinking about this for many, many months. We're working with our loan servicers. We're communicating with them daily. We have update meetings daily. And we're making sure that when we roll this process out, it can be smooth. And that's the expectation."