(Bloomberg) -- The Biden administration proposed rules changes to make it easier for some student loan borrowers to get their debt discharged or forgiven and limit how much interest gets added to outstanding balances.
The Education Department on Wednesday announced the proposals to expand targeted relief programs as President Joe Biden is under pressure from some Democrats in Congress to authorize widespread loan forgiveness for many of the 43.4 million Americans with student debt.
The department said the changes would alleviate debt for disabled students, workers in public service, and borrowers whose schools closed or “lied to them” and improve the Public Service Loan Forgiveness and other relief programs.
One of the most significant proposals would limit interest capitalization from loans unless it is required by statute. That way borrowers would not see their “balances balloon” when accrued interest is added to the principal balance of the loan, raising the balance for accruing future interest.
The plan also seeks to protect borrowers enrolled in schools that close before they complete a degree and those whose schools falsely certified students as eligible for loans. The Education Department would also eliminate the three-year income-monitoring period for borrowers with total or permanent disability now required for those who have their loans discharged, and make it easier for students to demonstrate their eligibility for relief.
The department also wants to make it easier to reduce debt for those who enter public service. It would allow more borrowers to qualify for lump sum, partial, and late payments. Deferments and forbearances for Peace Corps and AmeriCorps service, National Guard duty, and military service would count toward the public service relief program.
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement that he was committed to fixing the “broken system” of student loan relief. “If a borrower qualifies for student loan relief, it shouldn’t take mountains of paperwork or a law degree to obtain it,” he said.
The proposed changes will be open for public comment for 30 days and finalized by Nov. 1 to take effect next July.
The administration froze student debt payments as one of the measures to soften the blow from the pandemic-induced economic slump last year. Biden had extended the moratorium, but the forbearance period is set to end Aug. 31.
The president has rejected calls from Democratic members of Congress including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren to cancel at least $50,000 in debt per borrower. One plan being considered in the White House is canceling $10,000 of debt and limiting the forgiveness by income. The average federal student loan debt is $37,113.
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