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The U.S. Department of Education last week began notifying thousands of former ITT Tech students that their outstanding student loan balances would be automatically canceled.

The department was required to take that step after the Obama administration’s borrower-defense rule took effect last year. The rule requires that borrowers who were enrolled within 120 days of a college’s closure automatically have their student debt discharged if they haven’t transferred elsewhere within three years, a process called closed-school discharge.

In December, about 15,000 borrowers -- mostly former students of Corinthian Colleges programs -- had their loans canceled under the rule. The discharged debt totaled $150 million.

The government will cancel more than $94.5 million for the ITT borrowers who became eligible for automatic loan relief this month. The eligible borrowers attended ITT locations that closed on Sept. 6, 2016.

About 7,500 former students ITT students will receive debt relief. Not included in that number are parent borrowers whose PLUS loans also will be canceled.

A new borrower-defense rule issued by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos this month drops the automatic loan relief provision for borrowers who haven’t enrolled elsewhere within three years. Instead, those borrowers will have to proactively apply for debt cancellation.

“At the same time she is providing these discharges for ITT borrowers, she is working to eliminate this important relief mechanism for future borrowers by gutting the borrower-defense rule,” Senator Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said in a statement.

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