ED Review (07/21/23)

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July 21, 2023


Automatic Loan Forgiveness

Last week, the Department began notifying more than 804,000 borrowers that they have a total of $39 billion in federal student loans that will be automatically discharged in the coming weeks.  The forthcoming discharges are the result of fixes implemented by the Biden Administration to address historic failures in the administration of the federal student loan program in which qualifying payments made under income-driven repayment (IDR) plans that should have moved borrowers closer to forgiveness were not accurately accounted for.  Borrowers are eligible for forgiveness if they have accumulated the equivalent of 20 or 25 years of qualifying months (press release and state-by-state data). 

“For too long, borrowers fell through the cracks of a broken system that failed to keep accurate track of their progress towards forgiveness,” emphasized Secretary Cardona.  “By fixing past administrative failures, we are ensuring everyone gets the forgiveness they deserve, just as we have done for public servants, students who were cheated by their colleges, and borrowers with permanent disabilities, including veterans.  This Administration will not stop fighting to level the playing field in higher education.” 

Both President Biden and Vice President Harris also issued statements on the Administration’s action. 

The Department announced a payment count adjustment in April 2022.  Under the Higher Education Act (HEA) and agency regulations, a borrower is eligible for forgiveness after making 240 or 300 monthly payments -- the equivalent of 20 or 25 years on the standard repayment plan or an IDR plan, with the number of required payments varying based on when borrowers first took out their loans, their type of loans, and their IDR plan.  Inaccurate payment counts have resulted in borrowers losing progress towards forgiveness.  This action also addressed concerns about practices by loan servicers that put borrowers into forbearance in violation of agency rules.  The Department previously discharged loans for borrowers who had reached forgiveness under Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) through these fixes. 

The Department will continue to identify and notify borrowers who reach applicable forgiveness thresholds every two months until next year, when all borrowers not yet eligible for forgiveness will have their payment counts updated. 

Those receiving forgiveness will have repayment on their loans paused until their discharge is processed. 

This latest action builds on the Administration’s record of student debt relief to date, including:

  • $45 billion for 653,800 public servants through improvements to PSLF;
  • $22 billion for nearly 1.3 million borrowers who were cheated by their colleges, saw their schools precipitously close, or are covered by related court settlements; and
  • $10.5 billion for 491,000 borrowers who have a total and permanent disability. 

The Administration has also taken steps to help borrowers access affordable payments moving forward.  The Department recently issued final regulations creating the Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE) repayment plan.  This new IDR plan will cut borrowers’ monthly payments in half, allow many borrowers to make $0 monthly payments, save other borrowers at least $1,000 per year, and ensure borrowers do not see their balances grow from unpaid interest. 

Separately, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and state attorneys general warned consumers about the potential rise in student loan debt scam robocalls and robotexts in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision blocking implementation of the Administration’s one-time federal student loan debt relief plan. 


Investing in America

This week, Secretary Cardona traveled to Atlanta to speak at the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) Annual Conference and participate in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution Live event. 

The Secretary also joined First Lady Dr. Jill Biden and Deputy Secretary of Energy David Turk for a meeting with local officials and key stakeholders leading the Investing in America Workforce Hub in Augusta, Georgia (First Lady’s remarks). 

The Administration recently wrapped its second Investing in America tour, during which President Biden, Vice President Harris, the First Lady, Cabinet members, and senior officials made 65 stops in 33 states and territories to spotlight the impact of federal investments -- including the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Inflation Reduction Act, the CHIPS and Science Act, and the American Rescue Plan -- on communities (see Invest.gov). 



The Secretary praised the 2023 President’s Education Awards Program (PEAP) recipients, saluting elementary, middle, and high school graduates on their educational accomplishments.  Since 1983, PEAP has bestowed individual recognition from the President to students whose outstanding efforts have enabled them to meet challenging standards of excellence.  School principals determine the number of qualifying students; there is no limit, as long as students meet the selection criteria.  Students receive a certificate and congratulatory letter signed by the President and the Secretary of Education.  This year, the Department again posted all materials online (press release). 

The White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity through Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) announced its latest cohort of HBCU Scholars, honoring 102 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students from 29 different states and countries. 

And, check out two new site visit videos and two new audio stories highlighting successful practices of National Blue Ribbon Schools: Hanover High School in New Hampshire; C. W. Shipley Elementary School in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia; Checotah Intermediate Elementary School in Oklahoma; and Mosaic Elementary School in Fairfax, Virginia. 


From the beginning of their Administration, President Biden and Vice President Harris have focused on child care costs as a critical challenge for families.  Indeed, in an executive order signed back in April, the President directed the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to consider advancing policies that reduce child care costs for families and improve provider payment policies to strengthen the child care market.  This month, the Vice President announced several new actions to bolster HHS’ Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program, which supports 1.5 million children and their families each month with child care assistance (Vice President’s remarks). 

HHS’ Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPR) would:

  • cap child care co-payments for working families at no more than 7% of a family’s income and encourage states to waive co-payments for families at or below 150% of the federal poverty level;
  • improve financial stability for child care providers and further incentivize their participation in the CCDBG program by ensuring they are paid on time and based on program enrollment instead of attendance; and
  • make it easier for families to access CCDBG by encouraging states to accept online applications and make siblings of children who already receive the subsidy presumptively eligible for benefits. 

The NPR remains open for public comment through August 28. 


Also this month, in the continued effort to fight the dangerous and deadly combination of xylazine mixed with fentanyl, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) released a National Response Plan to coordinate a whole-of-government approach.  The goal is to eliminate the emerging threat.  This requires a 15% reduction (compared to 2022 as the baseline year) of xylazine-positive drug poisoning deaths in at least three of four U.S. census regions by 2025. 

The Administration has ramped up its response efforts.  In January, ONDCP Director Dr. Rahul Gupta convened the Evolving and Emerging Threats Committee to discuss the emergence of xylazine mixed with fentanyl in the illicit drug supply.  In February, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) restricted the unlawful entry of xylazine-active pharmaceutical ingredients and finished dosage form drug products into the country.  And in March, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a public safety alert on the sharp increase in the trafficking of the combination (White House fact sheet). 

Meanwhile, Dr. Gupta and U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy co-authored an op-ed in USA Today on how all Americans can take action to address the “twin crises” of untreated mental illness and unsafe substance abuse among young people. 



“You don't change your stripes....  I always say I'm the same Miguel Cardona from the barrio to the briefing room.

-- Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona (7/19/23), addressing teachers and teachers-in-training that are part of the Teacher Quality and Retention Program with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund 


Registration remains open for the sixth and final virtual session in the Family Engagement Learning Series, July 25 from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time, which will explore how family engagement supports college and career pathways success. 

All are also welcome to tune in July 26, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. ET, for the National Summit on Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, which will focus on the strategies higher education leaders are pursuing for reimagining admissions, building affordable college pipelines, and creating inclusive campus communities that support student success and completion (registration page). 

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