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1 in 9 Mass. residents could get some student debt canceled. Here are the next steps

Students from George Washington University wear their graduation gowns outside of the White House on May 18, 2022 to push for student loan forgiveness. (Stefani Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)
Students from George Washington University wear their graduation gowns outside of the White House on May 18, 2022 to push for student loan forgiveness. (Stefani Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)

Editor's Note: This is an excerpt from WBUR's daily morning newsletter, WBUR Today. If you like what you read and want it in your inbox, sign up here


Did you remember? It's the 21st morning of September. Here's what to know while we're chasing the clouds away.

We're still waiting for details on how individuals can apply to get their loans forgiven under President Biden's student debt relief plan. But the potential local impact is becoming a bit more clear: 813,000 — or one in nine — Massachusetts residents stand to benefit from the plan, according to figures released Tuesday by the White House.

That includes 401,200 Pell Grant recipients in the state who could get as much as $20,000 of their student loans eliminated. Other borrowers could get up to $10,000 of their loans canceled (remember: the income limit for relief is $125,000 a year for individuals or $250,000 for couples).

Don't forget: While about a fifth of all borrowers will see their debt canceled automatically, everyone will have to apply. Officials say the application will be available in early October (that's soon!) and you can sign up to get email notifications for when the process has opened right here. Once it opens, you'll have until until Dec. 31, 2023 to apply.

What happens next? The Biden administration says that those who get their application in before Nov. 15 should see relief applied to their student debt balances before the beginning of January (when the pause on student loan payments expires).

For more, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona recently took questions about the plan from NPR readers and listeners here.

Lasell University students will also get some relief next year — no federal program required. The Newton college's Board of Trustees has voted to cut the cost of attendance by about $20,000 — or 33%. The combined price of tuition and room and board for the 2023-24 academic year will be $39,500, down from $59,130 this year. Tuition itself is dropping 40%, from $42,630 this year to $26,000.

Lasell officials say that "sticker shock is real" and that the price cut "better reflects the actual out of pocket costs" most students pay after scholarships are factored in. They hope making the real price more clear will attract more students, as statewide college attendance rates continue to drop.

State educational officials approved a policy yesterday requiring all Massachusetts public schools to screen K-3 students for dyslexia and other potential learning disabilities. Officials estimate "a majority" of the state's schools already employ some sort of literacy screenings. But the new rule aims to ensure that every single school is doing so and that they are all following the same universal standards.

What exactly do the new rules require? Beginning next school year, teachers will have to test students' reading skills at least twice a year. The type of tests differ based on grade. But if a student is found to be "significantly below relevant benchmarks," school officials are required to take action, as well as notify a parent or guardian within 30 days.

Does that mean sending kids to special education programs? Not necessarily. Officials say the early identification of struggles can allow schools to better meet students' needs within a regular classroom setting and avoid unnecessary special education referrals.

Education Secretary James Peyser said the screening mandate is a shift from what he derided as a "wait to fail" strategy. "Students are not given the targeted help they need when they need it to address their reading difficulties until they have fallen well behind their peers, resulting in what is often a lifetime struggle to catch up," he said. "The good news is we know how to do better."

P.S.— The end of summer means the beginning of our fall fundraiser. To kick it off, WBUR needs 500 contributors by 8 a.m. tomorrow. Please be one of the loyal readers who help make this newsletter — and all of WBUR’s journalism — possible. Need an extra reason? All monthly gifts made by the deadline will be doubled. Help us reach our goal and get in on the match by donating here.

Nik DeCosta-Klipa Twitter Newsletter Editor
Nik DeCosta-Klipa is the newsletter editor for WBUR.

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