On new Department of Education guidance for individuals affected by joint consolidated student loans

U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) issued the statement below in response to new Department of Education guidance for individuals affected by joint consolidated student loans. This guidance follows longtime efforts by Sen. Warner to provide relief for individuals who previously consolidated their federal student loan debt with a spouse under a program that was created by Congress and subsequently eliminated without providing a way for spouses to sever existing loans – even in the event of domestic violence, economic abuse, or an unresponsive partner. In 2022, in culmination of these efforts, Sen. Warner secured the passage of the Joint Consolidation Loan Separation Act of 2021 in order to help borrowers who remain liable for their abusive or uncommunicative spouse’s portion of their consolidated debts.


“For years, borrowers in joint consolidated loans have faced frustrating bureaucratic hurdles and dismal prospects for severing their loans, keeping them trapped in financial agreements with unresponsive or abusive ex-spouses and preventing them from accessing loan forgiveness programs. I’m proud to have written the law that finally made separation a possibility, and I’m glad to see the Department of Education take another important step towards finally freeing borrowers from these burdensome loans. I look forward to working with the Department to ensure that it is meeting its established deadlines so all borrowers can finally separate their loans and move on with their lives,” said Sen. Warner.


According to new Department of Education guidance, the Office of Federal Student Aid will finalize and publish the application and promissory note for joint consolidation loan co-borrowers in the Fall of 2024. Upon availability, borrowers will be able to submit a:


• Joint Application: Both co-borrowers submit individual App/Notes to the Department, which will separate the JCL and create a new, individual Direct Consolidation Loan for each individual; or,

• Separate Application: An individual JCL applicant submits an App/Note to the Department without regard to whether or when the co-borrower applies, if the applicant has experienced an act of domestic violence or economic abuse from the other co-borrower, or if they are unable to reasonably reach or access the loan information of the other co-borrower.


Once the loans are separated, the applicants’ loan obligation will be consolidated into a Direct Consolidation Loan if both borrowers completed the joint application process. For those who submit a separate application, the loan obligation will follow the same process as the joint application process, but if the remaining co-borrower does not complete an application, their loan obligation will remain a JCL with one borrower.


According to the Department of Education guidance, the Office of Federal Student Aid aims to begin processing applications, in partnership with federal student loan servicers, by the end of the year. Borrowers and interested parties are encouraged to monitor the Department’s Homeroom Blog, FSA’s Electronic Announcements page, and the dedicated Joint Consolidation Loan Separation News and Updates webpage for details on webinars and general updates for potential applicants during implementation.


Sen. Warner’s Joint Consolidation Loan Separation Act, originally introduced in 2017, was inspired by Sara, a constituent from McLean, Virginia who contacted Sen. Warner to communicate her struggles with a joint consolidation loan. Sara was raising two children on a public school teacher’s salary in Northern Virginia and trying to keep up with payments on her student loans. Unfortunately, her ex-spouse, whom she had divorced and moved thousands of miles away from to start fresh, refused to pay his share of their joint loan. Because joint consolidation loans create joint and several liability for borrowers, Sara faced the threat of having her wages as a public school teacher garnished if she did not pay both her and her ex-husband’s portions of their debt. Sen. Warner did not think this was fair and sought to create a solution, so that constituents like Sara could control their own financial futures. You can hear Sen. Warner tell Sara’s story here.