The Education Department announced its latest step in the broad student-debt relief process.
It's seeking nominations for people to participate in negotiating sessions this fall.
The department does not expect a final rule to be posted until next year.
President Joe Biden is moving forward with his new plan for broad student-loan forgiveness.
After the Supreme Court struck down Biden's first plan to cancel student debt broadly for borrowers using the HEROES Act of 2003, his Education Department announced it would be attempting relief using a different law: the Higher Education Act of 1965.
As opposed to the HEROES Act, though, the Higher Education Act requires the administration to go through the negotiated rulemaking process, which could take at least a year because it includes holding public hearings and a series of negotiations to craft the final debt-relief plan. Last month, the department held its public hearing — and on Tuesday, it announced it was seeking nominations for non-federal negotiators to participate in the negotiating sessions beginning in October.
"When the Supreme Court ruled against the Biden-Harris Administration's student debt relief plan, we did not waste a moment opening up a new pathway to debt relief," the Education Secretary, Miguel Cardona, said in a statement.
"As we pursue debt relief through this process, one of the most important steps is bringing together diverse perspectives to help us craft the strongest possible regulations for borrowers," he continued. "The Student Loan Relief committee will include students, borrowers, state officials, civil rights advocates, representatives from colleges and universities, and other stakeholders so we can make sure all voices are heard and the needs of borrowers are fully considered."
The press release said negotiations would be held virtually on October 10-11, November 6-7, and December 11-12, and they would be open to the public with opportunities for public comment.
Here are the 14 spots the department is seeking nominations for:
Four spots for current students and student-loan borrowers
Four spots for different types of institutions, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities and minority-serving institutions
Two spots for state officials and attorneys general
Two spots for civil-rights organizations and legal-assistance organizations
One spot for a member or veteran of the military service
And one spot for someone from the Federal Family Education Loan program.
Nominations can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org by September 14, and they must include which group the nominee falls into, their résumé and experience, and contact information. Following the negotiations, the department is set to publish the proposed student-debt relief for public comment and "produce final regulations next year," the press release says.
This latest step comes just days before the student-loan payment pause ends — interest is beginning to accrue again on Friday, with bills becoming due in October. Since borrowers aren't set to enter repayment with broad relief, the department also announced a 12-month "on-ramp" period during which missed payments will not be reported to credit agencies, but interest will still accrue.
Additionally, Biden recently announced $39 billion in debt relief for over 800,000 borrowers due to a one-time account adjustment for borrowers on income-driven repayment plans, and the department is set to evaluate borrowers' accounts every two months to determine others that have met the qualifying 20 or 25 years of payments on those plans for relief.
However, while the department is moving forward with the broad debt-relief process, its future is uncertain due to conservative opposition — and potential legal challenges that could once again halt relief for borrowers.
Read the original article on Business Insider