On Thursday President Biden said that 16 million borrowers are already approved for forgiveness out of 26 million that have applied so far. 

He promised that his administration is preparing for “checks going out”, which, while confusing, seems to refer to metaphorical checks which will see balances drop by up to $20K. However the proverbial “checks” won’t go out just yet.

This is because of the current legal challenge being spearheaded by six Republican-led states which is still under review in the seventh circuit court. After Judge Henry Autrey dismissed the case on the question of standing 2 weeks ago, the states’ challenge was quickly appealed and the seventh circuit court issued a temporary block which heard arguments early last week.

Biden was upbeat about the lawsuit saying “we’re going to win”. But even with that possibility, it seems like one objective, marshaling younger voters ahead of the primaries, won’t work out. Whether it is because the checks will be issued after election day on Nov. 8, meaning that the lawsuits perhaps served their most important function for the Republican states, or because younger votes are typically hard to turn out, especially at midterm elections, is unclear. In general this issue is not being covered as if it were an election issue the same way overturning Roe. V Wade or gas prices were, but that doesn’t always mean that voters aren’t weighing it up.

It is promising that in slightly more than two months since Biden announced student loan forgiveness, at least 16 million eligible borrowers have applied out of the “more than 40 million” who qualify. Unfortunately, somewhat like COVID vaccination rates, that first group were the easy ones, and trying to reach out and ensure that as many people as possible apply for the program will get harder and harder.

Very likely those that have applied are on the higher end of the income spectrum and are more white than the population of borrowers. None of this is to say that student loan forgiveness shouldn’t go forward, but finding ways to do it that requires as little from the people they are trying to help as possible is important. There were good steps taken and the application itself was easy, as the viral tweet we shared would indicate.

But even an easy application requires a lot of people to go to a specific place and engage with a specific system. And while the benefit might be high for those who do, it wouldn’t be the first time that people avoided doing something that was good for them.

Update: On Friday the Supreme Court decided again not to block student loan forgiveness by deciding not to consider a case from the Pacific Legal Foundation, a group we discussed in a previous story. As it stands, the only thing still holding up forgiveness is the case discussed in this story.


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