WASHINGTON, D.C. (WGHP) – There are nearly 1.3 million residents of North Carolina – more than in all but nine other states – who are eligible for federal student loan relief under President Joe Biden’s reduction plan that has been put on hold, and more than a half-million of them have been fully approved and are waiting to see what happens in the courts.

President Joe Biden (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

But that also means that about 60% of the state’s eligible residents – and an equal number in the Congressional districts that include the 14 counties of the Piedmont Triad – have not been positioned for the forgiveness offered under the program the U.S. Department of Education announced last year. It was one of Biden’s key promises during his run for the White House in 2020.

This plan calls for a one-time reduction of up to $20,000 for qualifying recipients of a Pell grant and $10,000 for all others to be waived for federal loan balances incurred before June 30, 2022. Those who owed money qualified if they were individuals who reported to the IRS income of less than $125,000 in 2020 or 2021 and married couples or heads of household tax filers who made less than $250,000.

These gaps among applicants and approvals tracked across the country. Data released by the White House revealed that 40 million qualified for relief, but only about 26 million submitted an application.

Of those 16.5 million were approved fully during the month the program was open before it was suspended because of lawsuits that the Supreme Court will consider on Feb. 28.

Justices will hear oral arguments in two cases, one of which was brought by states who want the program tossed out and another by two borrowers who didn’t qualify for relief. The Biden administration has argued that neither group has the legal standing to sue.

All of this leaves in a state of flux the 809,300 in North Carolina who had applied or who automatically were qualified as eligible for relief. That’s 62.4% of the 1.296 million who were eligible under the program, but a much lower percentage of those eligible actually had approved applications (40.1% or 520,000 applicants).

The 64.3% approval rate of entered applications was slightly higher than the 62.4% application rate statewide, based on district-by-district data released by the White House.

Those figures tracked closely in the Congressional districts representing the 14 counties of the Triad (and some counties not included in the Triad). Of 457,100 eligible residents in those districts, 62.3% (285,000) had applied or been automatically qualified, and 64.4% (or about 183,400) of those who had were fully approved.

How those numbers compared

California had the most applicants (2.315 million) and the most approved applications (1.473 million), followed by Texas (2.163 million/1.391 million).

The other states with more applicants and/or approved applications than North Carolina pretty much break down along population lines: Florida, 1.598 million applicants and 1.047 million approved; New York, 1.549 million/998,000; Pennsylvania, 1.157 million/743,000; Ohio, 1.079 million/702,000; Illinois, 1.044 million/679,000; Georgia, 1.012 million/642,000; and Michigan, 864,000/566,000.
Except for Georgia, the data show that states surrounding North Carolina had significantly fewer applications and approvals: Virginia, 685,000/85,000, Tennessee 517,000/336,000, South Carolina 442,000/282,000 and West Virginia 131,000/85,000.

Breakdown by congressional districts

Although you might think that the program created by a Democratic president would be of greater benefit to districts who supported him – and Biden lost to former President Donald Trump in North Carolina in 2020 – the breakdown of data shows no significant political lean.

North Carolina currently is represented in Congress by seven Republicans (3rd, 5th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th districts) and seven Democrats (1st, 2nd, 4th, 6th, 12th 13th, 14th).

Those 14 districts averaged about 37,157 approvals, but the rates of approvals range from only 62.4% in the 11th District to that 65.9% in the 14th, which includes some of Mecklenburg County.

The districts that include the Triad had 64.4% of approved applications vs. 64.3% statewide, and the 6th District, which is comprised of Guilford, Rockingham and Caswell counties and a chunk of Forsyth and is represented by Democrat Kathy Manning, had the most approved applications, 46,600.

Its approval rating of 65.4%, though, was lower than the rate in the 14th District (65.9%/42,200) and the 1st District (65.8%/40,700).

The 12th District, which includes most of Charlotte, had 50,700 applications approved (64.1%), and the 11th, which includes Asheville and rural counties west of there, had the fewest, 25,400.

Across the Triad, the 8th District, which includes Davidson and Montgomery counties and is represented by Republican Dan Bishop, had 29,400 approvals, and the 5th District, which includes most of Forsyth along with Stokes, Surry, David, Yadkin, Wilkes and Alleghany counties and is represented by Republican Virginia Foxx, had 29,700, which was 64.1% of its 46,300 applicants.

By contrast, the 4th District, which includes Alamance County and is represented by Democrat Valerie Foushee (D-Durham), showed the highest application rate (66.6%) but a lower rate (63.7%) for its 41,500 approved applications.

Here’s the breakdown

Congressional districtEstimated Number of Borrowers
Eligible for Student Debt Relief
Number of people who
applied or were deemed
automatically eligible for relief
Pct. borrowers who applied or were eligible Number of fully-approved
applications sent to loan servicers
for discharge
 Pct. of applicants approved
NC-01105,60061,90058.6% 40,700 65.8%
NC-02103,20071,00068.8% 45,100 63.5%
NC-0377,40044,70057.8% 28,600 64.0%
NC-0497,70065,10066.6% 41,500 63.7%
NC-0575,90046,30061.0% 29,700 64.1%
NC-06113,10071,30063.0% 46,600 65.4%
NC-0793,50054,40058.2% 35,200 64.7%
NC-0878,20046,90060.0% 29,400 62.7%
NC-0992,20055,40060.1% 36,200 65.3%
NC-1073,20043,40059.3% 27,800 64.1%
NC-1166,30040,70061.4% 25,400 62.4%
NC-12121,10079,10065.3% 50,700 64.1%
NC-13100,20065,10065.0% 41,100 63.1%
NC-1499,00064,00064.6% 42,200 65.9%
TOTALS1,296,600809,30062.4% 520,200 64.3%

Triad districts – the 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th and 9th – are in bold.