Federal student loan borrowers who qualify for forgiveness of up to $20,000 have come a step closer after the US Department of Education announced it had begun beta testing of the application process.
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Beta began on the evening of Oct. 14, CNBC reported. The application is available at StudentAid.gov and will be on and off during the trial period. The Department of Education’s technical staff will occasionally pause the site for evaluation, refinement, and maintenance during the beta period. If the website is unavailable, borrowers are advised to check again so that they can submit their applications after the pause is over or after the official website is launched.
No changes will be made to the application itself during the beta period, CNN reported. However, changes could be made to the website software as the tech team tracks how it performs in beta mode.
“This testing phase will allow the department to monitor the performance of the site through real-world usage, test the site before the official launch of the application, refine processes and uncover possible bugs before the official launch,” an education ministry spokesman told media Email Statement.
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Borrowers applying for debt relief during the beta period will receive confirmation emails, but their applications will not be processed until the site is officially launched. The official start is expected for the end of October. Once the formal processing phase begins, most qualifying borrowers are expected to receive debt relief within weeks.
Borrowers will not have to reapply if they submit their applications during beta testing, the Education Department spokesman said.
As previously reported by GOBankingRates, borrowers with annual adjusted gross income (AGI) of less than $125,000 in 2020 or 2021 — or $250,000 for households — are eligible for up to $10,000 in debt forgiveness. Those who received Pell Grants are eligible for up to $20,000 in debt forgiveness.
To qualify, borrowers must have federally held student loans. In addition to federal direct loans used to pay for undergraduate degrees, federal PLUS loans borrowed from graduate students and parents may also be eligible if the borrower meets income requirements.
Education Department officials are aiming to begin processing the debt relief before the current pause in student loan repayments ends, which is scheduled for December 31, 2022. However, borrowers have until December 31, 2023 to submit their loan forgiveness applications.
Opponents of the student loan forgiveness plan have filed multiple lawsuits in an attempt to either end or at least slow the process. As CNN noted, a U.S. district judge could soon decide whether to temporarily block the program until the judge makes a final decision on the case.
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In the meantime, prospective applicants who have signed up for updates on the loan forgiveness process will receive emails informing them about the beta site. Once the website is officially launched, the White House will spread the word through social media and other channels.
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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Student Loan Forgiveness: Begin Beta Testing the Application Process – What You Need to Know