An Education Dept. contractor told Insider an email mistakenly telling borrowers their student-debt relief is approved was a result of "human error."
Millions of student-loan borrowers will soon receive an updated email on the status of their debt relief.
Over November 22 and 23, approximately 9 million borrowers received an email from President Joe Biden
's Education Department with a subject line that stated: "Your Student Loan Debt Relief Application Has Been Approved." However, that subject line was incorrect, Insider has learned — it was simply supposed to inform borrowers that their applications had been received with the subject line: "Update on Student Loan Debt Relief."
This error was made by Accenture Federal Services, which is a contractor of the department that sent the email communications. While the content of the email was accurate and provided borrowers an update that debt relief is currently held up in court and loans cannot be discharged at this time, Accenture, on behalf of the department, will be sending new emails with a corrected subject line to those impacted borrowers in the coming days.
Stacey Jones, senior managing director and head of corporate communications for Accenture, told Insider in a statement that the company "regrets the human error that led to an email being sent to a number of student loan debt relief applicants with an inaccurate subject line."
"The email was sent on behalf of the Department of Education on Nov. 22 and 23," she continued. "Working closely with the Department, Accenture Federal Services will review quality control measures to support accurate and timely communications to applicants in the Student Loan Debt Relief program."
An Education Department spokesperson also told Insider in a statement that "communicating clearly and accurately with borrowers is a top priority of the Department."
"We are in close touch with Accenture Federal Services as they take corrective action to ensure all borrowers and those affected have accurate information about debt relief," the spokesperson said.
The department has previously indicated that 26 million student-loan borrowers had already submitted applications for debt relief. However, since October, the option to submit an application has been closed due to two legal decisions so far that have blocked the implementation of the relief. The first ruling came from a Texas judge last month who said Biden's plan to cancel student debt is illegal, and just days later, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals decided the temporary pause it had placed on the relief in October will remain in place.
Biden's Justice Department has since asked the Supreme Court to intervene in both cases. On Thursday, the Court agreed to hear arguments for the lawsuit brought to the 8th Circuit in February, and it has not yet indicated how it will approach the lawsuit the Texas judge ruled on. It's likely the Supreme Court could choose to combine both of the cases and hear arguments for them early next year.
In light of the lawsuits, Biden recently extended the pause on student-loan payments through June 30, or whenever the lawsuits are resolved — whichever comes first. The administration also continues to express confidence that it will prevail in court and stands behind the authority it used under the HEROES Act of 2003 to enact one-time debt relief for millions of borrowers.
"Our student debt relief program is necessary to help 40M eligible Americans struggling under the burden of student loan debt recover from the pandemic," Education Secretary Miguel Cardona wrote on Twitter on Thursday. "That's 40M borrowers who chased the American dream through higher education. I look forward to SCOTUS hearing our case."