Biden Administration Moves to Forgive Student Debt

Ryan Brooks, Assistant News Editor

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, spoke during a news conference on student loan debt in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. U.S. on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021. Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images (Bloomberg via Getty Images)

During the 2020 presidential campaign, President Biden promised to forgive at least $10,000 in federal student debt per person. Now, the Biden administration, along with a Democratic Congress, looks to act on that promise.

In total, the amount of debt held by U.S students is around $1.5 trillion. According to Forbes, student debt is the second-highest consumer debt category, outpacing credit cards and auto loans. As a state, Connecticut has the highest average student loan debt at $38,669 per person.

Though many view President Biden’s proposal of $10,000 in student debt relief as significant, some within the Democratic Party are looking to push further.

In a press conference outside the Capitol building on Feb. 4, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Rep. Ilhan Omar called on President Biden to forgive $50,000 in federal student loan debt.

“The idea behind this is to put more money into the pockets and better long term prospects for young people who are starting their economic lives,” Sen. Warren said. “In the long run, canceling this student loan debt will be a big positive, not only for those families, but also for our economy.”

With the President not putting any student debt forgiveness in his $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki looked to put some anxious Democrats at ease.

“The President continues to support the canceling of student debt to bring relief to students and families. Our team is reviewing whether there are any steps he can take through executive action and he would welcome the opportunity to sign a bill sent to him by congress,” Psaki said in a tweet.

Still, student loan forgiveness has now become a controversial and partisan issue.

According to Data For Progress, 77 percent of Democrats believe Biden should forgive student loans, while only 29 percent of Republicans say the same. Some Republicans believe that Biden’s proposal is a useless government handout.

Former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos spoke to the Washington Post about the matter.

“We’ve heard shrill calls to cancel, to forgive, to make it all free. Any innocuous label out there can’t obfuscate what it really is: Wrong,” DeVos said.

Some Senate Republicans argue that student loan relief only benefits wealthy graduate students such as doctors, lawyers, and dentists.

Proponents disagree, offering that student debt relief benefits college students who are struggling and will help stimulate the economy.

“What’s attractive about student debt cancellation in this moment is that [it] can help stimulate the economy at a moment when we need economic stimulus,” Suzanne Kahn, director at the Roosevelt Institute told Vox. “And it has significant racial equity implications as well.”

According to a study from Brandeis University, a Black student loan borrowers owes 95 percent of their debt 20 years after college, while the typical white loan borrower has paid off 94 percent of their debt.

“For those who are already drowning and you are saying you want to do a stimulus, do a stimulus. No one says anything when rich people get a tax break,” Frederick Wherry, professor of sociology at Princeton University, said.

Some progressives have been urging the President to cancel student debt through executive order, saying in a statement that the executive-branch position of U.S Secretary of Education has the authority to,” modify, compromise, waive, or release any right, title, claim, lien, or demand, however, acquired, including any equity or any right of redemption.” Still, legal experts are mixed on whether the executive branch has that authority, and Biden had expressed a preference for working with Congress to pass the legislation during his transition.

“Canceling student loan debt would immediately put money in the pockets of millions of Americans,”  Warren said in a tweet on February 1, “It would help dig our economy out of this crisis and we don’t have to wait for Congress: the Biden-Harris administration can get it done with their executive authority.”