White House estimates over 60K Alaskans to benefit from student loan forgiveness plan

The state adds a small portion to the estimated 40M borrowers eligible for relief across the country

Tens of thousands of Alaska residents are expected to receive student loan forgiveness, according to new data.

Weeks after President Joe Biden announced his plan to provide up to $20,000 in student debt cancellation for students across the country, the White House released a fact sheet detailing just how many borrowers are expected to benefit from state-by-state.

It’s estimated that 60,500 borrowers in Alaska will receive the baseline $10,000 in loan forgiveness, and of those borrowers, an estimated 37,300 who received a Pell Grant are expected to receive an additional $10,000 in forgiveness to total $20,000, according to the White House.

The number of borrowers in Alaska constitutes a small portion of the overall number of Americans living with student debt, and according to the White House, an estimated 40 million borrowers are eligible for its student debt relief plan and close to 20 million could see their debt eliminated. The fact sheet outlined that close to 71% of Black undergraduate borrowers are Pell Grant recipients and 65% of Latino undergraduate borrowers are Pell Grant recipients as well.

“Nearly 90% of relief dollars will go to those earning less than $75,000 per year – and no relief will go to any individual or household in the top 5% of incomes in the United States,” the fact sheet stated.

An April 2022 study by the Educational Data Initiative found similar numbers for the amount of borrowers in Alaska and estimated more than 65,000 Alaska residents are currently living with student loans and just under 50% of them are 35 years old or younger. Overall, that equates to 9.2% of the state’s residents having some type of student loan debt and more than 80% are found to have at least $5,000 in debt to repay.

At Juneau’s local campus, the University of Alaska Southeast, 16% of its undergraduate students took out student loans that averaged $6,410 during the 2019-2020 school year (the 2020-2021 information has yet to be release), according to data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.

There are still many unknowns regarding the announced debt forgiveness, such as when borrowers will need to apply if needed and when the relief will roll out.

The Department of Education recently released a statement that the application for relief will be ready in “early October” and encouraged people to apply before Nov. 15 — before restarting federal loan repayments at the beginning of 2023 — however, no clear date has been released yet.

For some, the cancellation will be automatic if the department has access to their income information, but others will need to fill out a form.

Biden is expected to share more information on the plan in the coming weeks, according to the White House.

Contact reporter Clarise Larson at clarise.larson@juneauempire.com or (651)-528-1807. Follow her on Twitter at @clariselarson.