About 22 million Americans applied for federal student loan debt relief in the first week since the Education Department began accepting applications, President Joe Biden announced on Friday.
That figure is roughly half of the more than 40 million Americans who the Education Department expects will be eligible for the relief program, which offers up to $20,000 of loan forgiveness to borrowers earning below $125,000 individually or $250,000 as a couple.
Speaking at Delaware State University, Biden touted his administration’s smooth rollout of the federal website where borrowers can apply for relief in a matter of minutes. Biden said the “vast majority” of the people had applied online using their phone.
In preparing to launch the student debt relief program, Biden said, he wanted to avoid the “position that Barack and I were in, in terms of the Affordable Care Act,” referring to the disastrous launch of the HealthCare.gov website in 2013.
“We made sure we tested it,” Biden said of the debt relief application, which is available at StudentAid.gov.
The flood of applications comes as GOP officials and conservative groups are rushing to have the program blocked in court before the administration begins discharging the loans, possibility as soon as this weekend.
Biden won several early legal victories on his debt relief program earlier this week.
Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett on Thursday declined to halt the policy in response to an emergency request by a conservative group representing taxpayers in Wisconsin.
Separately, a federal judge in Missouri on Thursday dismissed a legal challenge from six Republican states, ruling that they did not articulate the type of harm that’s needed to have their legal challenge heard in court.
And yet another federal judge on Friday tossed out, for a second time, a legal challenge brought by a conservative group on behalf of borrowers who say they will be made worse off by Biden’s debt relief because of state tax consequences.
But the legal battles over the unprecedented debt relief program are far from over. The issue could potentially end back at the Supreme Court in a matter of days or weeks.
The Republican attorneys general have appealed the lower court’s ruling in their case to a federal appeals court. They urged the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals to issue an emergency order temporarily halting the debt relief program by Saturday morning.
The Biden administration has indicated in court filings that it could begin discharging loans as early as Sunday. But the Education Department has not said publicly precisely when that process will begin.