Biden’s Student Debt Relief Plan and Your Film School Loans

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After months of speculation, the Biden-Harris Administration wiped away a minimum of $10,000 in student loan debt — good news for film school students, who often borrow tens of thousands to attend prestigious institutions like the American Film Institute Conservatory and New York University.

The student loan forgiveness plan states Pell Grant recipients can get up to $20,000 in debt relief, while non-Pell Grant recipients who also took out loans from The Department of Education, including Parent Plus loans, can get up to $10,000. The plan does not cover private loans.

To qualify for student loan debt relief, you need to meet the Biden-Harris Administration’s income restrictions. If you’re single and earn more than $125,000 per year or married and earn more than $250,000 in total income per year, you must repay your student loans in full. Current students are eligible only if their parent(s)’ income falls below the cap.

The federal student loan pause has also been extended through December 31, 2022. No application is required.

The Top 5 Questions About Biden's Student Loan Forgiveness Plan, Answered


1. Does the debt relief apply to new undergraduate and graduate student loans?


No. The $10,000 to $20,000 package only applies to loans taken out before July 1, 2022.

2. If I already made student loan payments, can I receive a refund?


Yes. If you’ve been paying down the principal balance on your student loans throughout the pandemic, you’re in luck: according to the Federal Student Aid website, all payments made from March 13, 2020 to present are refundable.

To initiate your refund, contact your student loan servicer as soon as possible.

3. How much of my student loan debt will be forgiven?


Your debt relief amount is determined by how much you owe. For example, if you owe $25,000 on your film school degree and received Pell Grants, expect $20,000. If you owe $8,000 and did not receive Pell Grants, expect $8,000.

If you were up to date on your student loan payments prior to March 13, 2020, interest accrued prior to the pause will not capitalize. That means zero outstanding interest will be added to your student loan debt once the pause is lifted on January 1, 2023.

4. Do I need to fill out a form or contact my student loan servicer to qualify for debt relief?


To automatically receive debt relief, you will have needed to share your income with the federal government.

If The Department of Education has not received your income data, prepare to file an application sometime in October 2022. Get notified when the application opens. After submitting your application, you may receive student loan debt relief in as little as 4-6 weeks.

5. How will Biden's student loan forgiveness affect the future of taking out student loans?


If you’re thinking about earning your film degree in the next few years, it may be more feasible than ever to make more affordable monthly student loan payments. The Biden-Harris Administration is dividing a new rule to reduce student loan payments for low- to middle-income borrowers that would:
  • Cap undergraduate student loan payments at no more than 5% of borrowers’ discretionary monthly income (down from 10%).
    • Borrowers with graduate and undergraduate student loans will pay a weighted average rate.
  • Prevent borrowers earning under 225% of the federal poverty level from being required to make monthly payments.
  • Forgive student loan balances after 10 years of repayment (down from 20 years).
  • Cover borrowers’ unpaid monthly interest — as long as regular monthly payments are made, even if the monthly payment due is zero dollars thanks to having a lower discretionary income.
For many aspiring filmmakers, the stress of repaying student loans in lower-paying entry level roles — like personal assistantships on film and TV sets — can delay or eliminate the possibility of going to film school.

Fortunately, the Biden-Harris student loan forgiveness plan ensures current students and soon-to-be graduates have a cushion for paying down their debt. It’s also important to aggressively apply for scholarships every year of film school. Try applying for the top 10 film school scholarships and check out FilmSchool.org’s top 10 most affordable undergraduate programs in America. By picking the right film school for your budget and matching scholarships with federal aid, funding your education is within reach.

To make researching and applying to film schools easier, consider becoming a FilmSchool.org Supporting Member. Supporting Members receive access to 3,700+ film school student applications in our Application Database, which includes exclusive data about the total scholarship amounts received by other community members, plus full Acceptance Data to our film programs and admissions department interviews with world-renowned film schools.

At FilmSchool.org, we aim to help you choose the best film school for you, simplify the application process, and navigate getting scholarships and financial aid. By learning about what your life will look like during and after film school, you can apply to your programs of choice and enter the industry with confidence. Supporting Memberships allow us to carry out our mission without undue influence from these film schools and keep our content as unbiased as possible.
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Alexa P.
Alexa Pellegrini (she/her) is a freelance copywriter, editor, poet, and essayist. Keep up with her latest musings on Twitter.

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