The government's new program for canceling student debt, launched in June, looked like a historic win for debtors. A year after troubled for-profit education company Corinthian Colleges collapsed, the Department of Educationopened the first formal pathway for students of its colleges to ask for loan forgiveness.Now a group of Democrats in Congress is charging that the Department of Educationhas taken too long to refund the debt and has made it unlikely that most students will get relief.

"It has been three months since the Department of Education said it would create a debt-relief process but we have seen almost no progress,"said RepresentativeJanice Hahn (D-Calif.), one of 17 House Democrats who signed a letter to Education Department Secretary Arne Duncan on Tuesday. The Democrats said the department should be canceling billions in student loans automatically, whether or not graduates seek it.

The department recently appointed Joseph Smith, who monitored banks' compliance with the $25 billion mortgage settlement following the foreclosure crisis, to guide the distribution of relief to student debtors who took out loans to attend one of three Corinthian Colleges-owned chains: Everest, Heald, and Wyotech. Corinthian shuttered or sold its collegesamid state investigations into deceptive recruitment practices.Smith said in a September report(PDF) that the department's goal is to create a long-lasting system of loan relief that would help Corinthian grads whilealso applying more broadly to students at all institutions who believe they have been defrauded by their colleges."