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Can NC House candidate Tyler Lee really refuse Biden’s student loan forgiveness?

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CHARLOTTE — Tyler Lee, a Republican candidate running against Democratic congresswoman Alma Adams to represent North Carolina’s 12th Congressional District, recently said that he will not apply for forgiveness through President Biden’s debt cancellation plan.

Lee’s campaign sent an email to voters with the subject line “Why I’m Not Applying For Student Loan Forgiveness,” where he claimed to have racked up $40,000 in student loan debt while attending Liberty University.

“Biden’s student loan bailout announcement just betrayed all these American families by making them responsible for monies they were unwilling to spend for their own futures, or for their own progeny,” Lee wrote in the email.

“I myself had over $40,000 in student loan debt from going to Liberty University that I DO NOT expect anyone to pay off – other than myself! Just as I wouldn’t expect someone else to pay off my car note, mortgage, or creature comforts! School was a choice I made that I alone am responsible for,” he wrote.

So, is it possible to refuse student loan forgiveness? It depends on whether or not Lee is eligible to receive the forgiveness automatically or if he must apply for it.

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In Biden’s debt forgiveness plan, federal student loan debtors can receive up to $10,000 in forgiveness, or $20,000 if they’re Pell Grant recipients, so long as they earn less than $125,000 a year, or $250,000 jointly.

The debt forgiveness will automatically be applied to everyone who already has income data reported to the United States Department of Education, the agency said.

That’s nearly 8 million borrowers, most of whom have data reported to the agency because they have just started paying off their loans, or have been doing so for years.

If Lee is included in the pool of those borrowers — assuming his loans are not from a private lender and that he qualifies for forgiveness in the first place — there wouldn’t be a way for him to opt out of the automatic cancellation or ask for the debt back once it’s erased.

If Lee is not scheduled for automatic debt forgiveness, then he can certainly choose to not apply for student loan forgiveness once the application becomes available. In that case, he would be responsible for making payments on his loans once they resume in January 2023, as noted by the U.S. Department of Education.

The application for student loan forgiveness is scheduled to be available to those seeking debt cancellation by early October, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said. Borrowers can expect to receive cancellation within four to six weeks after their application is submitted.

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