Student Loans: 9 Million Borrowers Mistakenly ‘Approved’ for Forgiveness — What Happens Now?

Welcome Ceremony For French President Emmanuel Macron To White House - DC, Washington, United States - 01 Dec 2022
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In a mistake that will make a complicated situation even more confusing, about 9 million Americans received erroneous emails in November saying that their application for the Biden administration’s student debt relief program had been approved.

See: Biden’s Student Loan Forgiveness Will Likely Be Deemed Illegal — What To Expect Now
Find: Does My Spouse Have To Pay My Student Loans If I Die?

The administration had said that 26 million borrowers have applied for loan relief (16 million of whom have already been approved for relief), and that the Department of Education “will hold onto their information so it can quickly process their relief once we prevail in court.”

However, CBS News reported that the erroneous messages were part of updates the Department of Education had sent November to inform these 16 million debt relief applicants they had been approved. According to CBS, an additional 9 million people received emails saying they had received loan forgiveness when they had not been approved for relief “because the process was halted due to legal challenges, while some who hadn’t applied also received the emails.”

Accenture Federal Services, which is a contractor with the department, sent the emails with the subject line: “Your Student Loan Debt Relief Application Has Been Approved,” CBS detailed.

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“The email was sent on behalf of the Department of Education on Nov. 22 and 23,” Accenture exec Stacey Jones told Insider. “Working closely with the department, Accenture Federal Services will review quality control measures to support accurate and timely communications to applicants in the Student Loan Debt Relief program.”

Confusion, Doubt Surrounding Student Loan Forgiveness Plan Deepens

The error is just adding to the growing confusion as to the fate of the program.

On Dec. 1, the Supreme Court said it would hear oral arguments surrounding President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness program in February, a move the administration called “welcomed.” Meanwhile, the program is paused, leaving millions of borrowers waiting for a decision.

Take Our Poll: Do You Think Student Loan Debt Should Be Forgiven?
More: 5 Potential Shakeups to Student Loan Repayments Expected in the New Year

As for the Department of Education, a spokesperson told CBS that “communicating clearly and accurately with borrowers” is a top priority of the department. “We are in close touch with Accenture Federal Services as they take corrective action to ensure all borrowers and those affected have accurate information about debt relief.”

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About the Author

Yaël Bizouati-Kennedy is a full-time financial journalist and has written for several publications, including Dow Jones, The Financial Times Group, Bloomberg and Business Insider. She also worked as a vice president/senior content writer for major NYC-based financial companies, including New York Life and MSCI. Yaël is now freelancing and most recently, she co-authored  the book “Blockchain for Medical Research: Accelerating Trust in Healthcare,” with Dr. Sean Manion. (CRC Press, April 2020) She holds two master’s degrees, including one in Journalism from New York University and one in Russian Studies from Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès, France.
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