How a boomer just got $50,000 in student debt wiped out after making payments for 25 years

  • George Tucker, 63, got his $50,000 student-loan balance wiped out in October.

  • It's a result of an account adjustment for borrowers who made the required 20 or 25 years of payments.

  • Tucker said the financial freedom will allow him to care for his family's expenses.

George Tucker thought he would be resuming student-loan payments alongside millions of other borrowers this fall. Little did he know he was in for a pleasant surprise.

Tucker, 63, owed just under $50,000 on his student loans when the more than three-year pause on federal payments ended in October, per documents reviewed by Insider. As a government worker, Tucker has been enrolled in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program since shortly after it was created in 2007, but he said he's been making payments on his debt since 1998 after receiving his master's degree.

Although PSLF was intended to forgive student debt after ten years of qualifying payments, Tucker said paperwork challenges with the program threw him off track, and he was not anticipating debt relief.

George Tucker
George Tucker got $50,000 in student debt wiped out.George Tucker

While he was right that PSLF didn't land him the relief he was promised, he did receive a life-changing letter from his servicer MOHELA on October 24.

"Congratulations! The Biden-Harris Administration has forgiven your federal student loan(s) listed below with MOHELA in full," the letter, reviewed by Insider, said. "This debt relief was processed as part of the Biden-Harris Administration's one-time account adjustment because your student loan(s) have been in repayment of Over the summer, President Joe Biden's Education Department announced a one-time account adjustment for borrowers who have completed the required number of payments under certain repayment plans but have yet to have seen relief. Tucker's relief was a result of an adjustment for borrowers on income-driven repayment plans, which give borrowers monthly payments based on their income with the promise of debt cancellation after 20 or 25 years of payments.

Most recently, the department announced $2.8 billion in relief for 51,000 borrowers on IDR plans, and Tucker was likely one of them.

"It's a relief because it's money that I can use for my family expenses, which will make a huge difference for me," Tucker said.

"My wife isn't working, and I have a daughter who just had a baby who is now seven months old, so I'm helping her right now," he continued. "She doesn't have the kind of income that she would need to be self- sustaining, so my wife and I are helping as much as possible. So this relief is going to help a lot."

The Education Department said in its guidance that it would evaluate borrowers' accounts every two months to determine who else met the qualifying threshold of payments for relief, and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona previously told Insider that he would work to ensure all borrowers "who did their end of the bargain get the relief that they earned."

"They earned this," he said. "Those public servants who worked for 10 years of public service, many times making less than what they can make in the private sector, who paid their loans, they get the loan forgiveness they deserve."

'It was really surprising'

After being in repayment for so long, Tucker said he was well aware of the problems student-loan borrowers were facing getting debt relief — and he wasn't holding hope out for himself, either.

Since payments resumed, the Education Department has detected a wide range of errors servicers have made with borrowers' accounts, like inaccurate billing statements and late notices, even leading the department to withhold over $7 million in October pay from MOHELA.

Tucker was following challenges borrowers have been having with their servicers, and he said he was in the mindset that "I'm going to just continue to pay, and it was my determination to pay it off."

He even made a $450 payment in October once servicers started billing federal borrowers again, and "it was really surprising" to find out his balance had turned to $0, he said. He has not yet received a refund on that payment.

Insider previously spoke to Jason Harmon, another student-loan borrower who got his $47,000 balance wiped out due to the one-time account adjustment. After being in what he described as a "bureaucracy nightmare" where he couldn't get answers on his relief status, Harmon couldn't believe things had finally worked out in his favor.

"It just means this great load from the last 30 years of my life is off my shoulders. And that's really the most important feeling that I'm going to get out of this," he said.

For Tucker, he said he's grateful for the relief — and wishes it didn't take so long for borrowers to start getting what they were promised from loan forgiveness programs like PSLF.

"The program was there and I attempted to take advantage of it and it just wasn't successful," Tucker said. "So with this, it really makes a difference."

Read the original article on Business Insider