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9 million people received student debt forgiveness emails with an error—here's what borrowers need to know

The Senate voted to repeal President Joe Biden's student loan forgiveness plan on June 1, 2023. Biden —pictured here with U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona in October  — is expected to veto the bill.
Getty Images | Bloomberg

President Joe Biden's student debt forgiveness plan is still on hold for everyone. But at least 9 million borrowers may have further confusion about their debt forgiveness. 

In November, the Department of Education began informing borrowers that their applications for student loan forgiveness had been processed or approved. But 9 million of those emails had an error, according to an Education Department spokesperson. 

The subject line on the erroneous emails read "Your Student Loan Debt Relief Plan Application Has Been Approved." It should have stated more neutrally, "Update on Student Loan Debt Relief and the Status of Your Application," as other emailed notices did.

Although the body of the email correctly informed the borrowers of their application status, the erroneous subject line could be confusing or misleading to borrowers.

A government contractor, Accenture Federal Services, bears responsibility for the error, but it has no impact on the borrower's debt relief. If an individual's application was not approved, it cannot currently be approved while the Biden administration awaits a decision from the Supreme Court on the lawsuits aiming to block the plan. 

Around 26 million borrowers have applied for relief, with 16 million receiving approval before the courts barred the administration from reviewing any more applications or processing any debt relief until the legal challenges are settled

"Communicating clearly and accurately with borrowers is a top priority of the Department," an Education Department spokesperson said in a statement. "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."

Individuals have begun receiving correction emails notifying them of the error and making it clear only the subject line is incorrect, and borrowers do not need to take any further action at this time. 

The Supreme Court recently announced it would take up a second legal challenge to Biden's debt forgiveness plan in addition to the multi-state lawsuit the court previously said it would hear in February. 

Correction: This story has been updated to clarify Accenture Federal Services' role in the error.

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