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More Than 1M Pennsylvanians Signed Up for Loan Forgiveness

Nearly 1.2 million residents applied or were automatically eligible to receive student loan forgiveness under the Biden administration’s relief plan. The forgiveness plan is currently on hold by a court ruling.

(TNS) — Nearly 1.2 million Pennsylvania residents applied or were automatically eligible to receive federal student loan forgiveness, new data released by the Department of Education shows.

The relief initiative would offer up to $20,000 in individual student debt forgiveness to millions of borrowers who earn less than $125,000 per year. The report, released last week, provides a more detailed look into who applied for relief locally and beyond between Oct. 14 and Nov. 11, when a court ruling paused the program.

Even as millions of borrowers' applications have been approved, the relief plan is on hold until the U.S. Supreme Court weighs in.

In the meantime, an analysis of the federal data tells us more about local applicants. Here's what we found:

At a Glance

  • 1.79 million: Number of Pennsylvanians eligible for relief, according to Department of Education estimates
  • 1.15 million: Number of Pennsylvanians who applied or were automatically eligible
  • 742,300: Number of Pennsylvanians fully approved
  • Congressional District 3 ( Philadelphia): Pennsylvania's district with the highest number of applicants, with 96,800
  • Congressional District 15 ( Armstrong, Cameron, Centre, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Elk, Forest, Indiana, Jefferson, Lycoming, McKean, Potter, Snyder, Tioga, Union, Venango, and Warren Counties): Pennsylvania's district with the lowest number of applicants, with 52,000

By Political Areas

In Pennsylvania districts with more registered Democrats than Republicans, 65 percent of eligible borrowers applied. In Republican-majority districts, 63 percent did.

This mirrors national trends Politico noted in a nationwide analysis of student relief applicants that used zip code data.

According to Politico, borrowers in districts represented by Democrats were more likely to sign up for the student debt relief program than those in red areas, where many Republican leaders have criticized the program.

Democrat-represented districts averaged about 57,000 applications for debt relief compared to Republican districts' 50,000 applications. While not always perfect, congressional districts are designed to have roughly equal populations, so application numbers across districts would be expected to be similar.

The Department of Education data did not include the political parties of applicants.

By Average Income

  1. Across Pennsylvania, applicants living in lower-income districts were approved at a higher rate than those in wealthier areas.
  2. In District 1, Pennsylvania's wealthiest district that includes all of Bucks County and a sliver of Montgomery County, with a median annual household income of $100,136, 63 percent of applications were approved.
  3. In District 2, Pennsylvania's lowest-earning district that includes all of Northeast Philadelphia and parts of North Philadelphia and the River Wards, with a median income of $52,293, 69 percent of applications were approved.

According to Politico's nationwide analysis, borrowers in lower-income zip codes applied for student loan relief at a higher rate than those living in wealthier areas and more were approved, with 98 percent of applications coming from zip codes where the average income is under $75,000 and two-thirds from those where it's less than $40,000.

The applicants' exact income is unclear because the Department of Education did not collect that information, Politico reported.


The student debt forgiveness applicants' demographics have not been released by the education department, either.

But in Pennsylvania, Congressional District 3, which has the most nonwhite residents (67 percent of its population, according to Census Bureau data), also had the highest number of applicants and approved applications.

District 2, another majority nonwhite district in Philadelphia that has the highest percent of Latino residents in the state, had Pennsylvania's second-highest number of approved applications.

According to Politico's nationwide analysis, nonwhite majority zip codes accounted for more forgiveness applications per capita than majority-white zip codes.

Groups including the NAACP and Congressional Black Caucus say the relief program would help narrow the country's racial wealth gap.

What's Next?

Department of Education data shows that out of about 40 million eligible borrowers nationwide, about 26 million applied or were automatically eligible.

As noted by Axios, most congressional districts saw between 60 percent and 65 percent of eligible borrowers apply or automatically qualify. In Pennsylvania, that number was 64 percent.

Areas in northern Illinois saw among the highest interest with over 70 percent of residents applying or automatically qualifying, while districts in Puerto Rico, Oklahoma, and Arizona had among the lowest rates at just over 50 percent.

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the student debt forgiveness plan later this month. Over half of House Republicans and 40 GOP senators have filed or signed onto Supreme Court briefs that say the plan is unlawful.

(c)2023 The Philadelphia Inquirer. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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