Biden is forgiving $6.1 billion in student debt for 317,000 people

The Biden administration is forgiving $6.1 billion in student debt for 317,000 people who attended The Art Institutes, a for-profit chain of schools that shut down last fall amid allegations of fraud.

The latest effort represents President Joe Biden’s plan to tackle the nation’s $1.7 trillion in student debt after the Supreme Court last year blocked his administration’s plan for broad-based college loan forgiveness. 

The Art Institutes, which operated branches in cities including Atlanta, Fort Worth, New York and Tampa, shut down permanently in September after the Department of Education found it had misrepresented its graduates’ employment rates and salaries. Hundreds of thousands of students had taken out billions in loans to attend the schools, but “got little but lies in return,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement on Wednesday.

“We must continue to protect borrowers from predatory institutions — and work toward a higher education system that is affordable to students and taxpayers,” Cardona added. 

In a separate statement, Mr. Biden said his administration has forgiven $29 billion in debt for 1.6 million students “whose colleges took advantage of them, closed abruptly or were covered by related court settlements.”

In conjunction with its previously announced debt relief, the Biden administration said it has forgiven a total of more than $160 billion for nearly 4.6 million borrowers, a number that includes today’s announcement.

In the case of The Art Institutes, the Education Department’s investigation found that the company falsely claimed that 80% of its graduates found jobs in their fields of study within six months of graduation. In reality, the figure never rose above 57%, the department said. 

The school also allegedly misrepresented its graduates’ earnings and annualized the estimated incomes of grads who were in temporary jobs. For example, One campus included the annual income of tennis star Serena Williams, who had attended the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, in calculating grads’ average income, the department said. 

The Art Institutes closed suddenly in September, impacting 1,700 students, according to the New York Times. The closure came after the organization settled for $95.5 million with federal regulators, who had accused it of fraud. Other campuses operated by the school had shut down in 2019 or earlier, according to the The Art Institutes’ website.

Who qualifies for this student loan forgiveness? 

The Education Department said it is automatically forgiving $6.1 billion in student debt for 317,000 people who borrowed money to attend any Art Institutes campus on or after January 1, 2004, through October 16, 2017. 

Do borrowers need to take any actions?

No, borrowers don’t need to do anything, the Education Department said. 

The department will start notifying eligible borrowers on May 1 that they have been approved for their debt to be discharged. 

Do borrowers need to continuing making payments?

The Education Department said it will immediately pause loans identified for discharge, meaning that borrowers should not have to make additional payments. 

“This ensures that they will not face any further financial demands from these loans during the time needed to process their discharges,” the agency added.

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