Education Department begins beta testing for student loan forgiveness application

Personal finance

Student loan borrowers gather near The White House to tell President Biden to cancel student debt on May 12, 2020.
Paul Morigi | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

The  U.S. Department of Education began beta testing the student debt forgiveness application Friday night.

The application is available at StudentAid.gov. As of 8:45 p.m. ET Friday, the portal appeared to be functional, showing a short application and a button to submit it.

The portal will be open available on and off during the beta test, according to The Washington Post, which was the first to report on it.

“This testing period will allow the Department to monitor site performance through real-world use, test the site ahead of the official application launch, refine processes, and uncover any possible bugs prior to official launch,” an Education Department spokesperson told CNBC in an emailed statement.

During the beta period, the department’s technical team will occasionally pausing the site for assessments, refinements, and maintenance. During those pauses, the department will encourage borrowers visiting the site to check back so they can submit their application after the pause has concluded, or when the official site launches.

A preview of the application earlier this week suggested a full rollout of the application could come as soon as next week, said higher education expert Mark Kantrowitz.

Speaking prior to the launch, Kantrowitz said he had no firsthand knowledge of the Education Department’s test, but noted that “beta is a slow launch, making sure they get all the bugs out before they release it to everybody.”

“As soon as [the application] goes live to everybody, it’s going to be overwhelmed,” he added. “Just the announcement of forgiveness caused [site] slowdowns.”

Borrowers can apply for forgiveness during beta

Borrowers who happen upon the beta test link while it is live will be able to submit their forgiveness application ahead of the full rollout.

“If you do see the beta, there could be little glitches,” Kantrowitz said. “But if you successfully submit your application for forgiveness, you’ve submitted it.”

“During the beta testing period, borrowers will be able to submit applications for the Biden-Harris Administration’s student debt relief program,” said the Education Department spokesperson. “Those borrowers will not need to reapply if they submit their application during the beta test, but no applications will be processed until the site officially launches later this month.”

What to know about the forgiveness application

President Joe Biden announced in August that most federal student loan borrowers will be eligible for some debt forgiveness: up to $10,000 if they didn’t receive a Pell Grant, which is a type of aid available to low-income undergraduate students, and up to $20,000 if they did.

The relief is limited to individuals who earned no more than $125,000, or married couples or heads of households who made less than $250,000, in either 2020 or 2021.

The White House has said borrowers will be able to fill out and submit the short application for cancellation on a desktop computer or on their mobile phone.

Borrowers won’t need their FSA ID to apply, officials said. They will not be asked to prove their income on the main application, although some borrowers may later need to provide supporting documentation at the Education Department’s request.

Request relief as soon as the form launches, Kantrowitz said. There are several pending legal challenges against the Biden administration’s forgiveness plan. If your loans are forgiven before a lawsuit gets in the way, he said, “you probably get to keep your forgiveness.”

“As soon as it becomes available, everybody should apply,” he said.

Reporter Annie Nova contributed to this story.

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