Will Student Loan Forgiveness Happen? Biden officials send mixed signals


As student loan borrowers and their advocates continue their campaign to convince President Biden to adopt a blanket student loan forgiveness, administration officials are sending mixed messages.

Student loan borrower activists, rights groups and congressional progressives have embarked on a 10-month campaign to persuade Biden to write off over $ 50,000 in student loan debt per borrower using action of the executive. Although Biden has previously suggested he would support $ 10,000 in student loan forgiveness per borrower, he has expressed skepticism about his legal power to go further than that. Biden has repeatedly called on Congress to pass student loan relief through legislation, but student loan cancellation is not included in infrastructure and social spending proposals Congress Democrats are currently trying to make adopt.

Meanwhile, Biden administration officials continue to insist that millions of borrowers will resume repayment this winter, while keeping the door open for some form of additional student loan cancellation. Here is where it stands.

Biden officials focus on paying off student loans, not forgiving student loans

In remarks last month, Richard Cordray, director of federal student aid operations at the Department of Education, firmly said federal student loan repayments would resume once the national loan payment hiatus. students would end at the end of January. Cordray said the ongoing discussion about the widespread cancellation of student loans distracted borrowers from preparing for repayment.

“Borrowers have heard a constant drumbeat about the possibility of a loan forgiveness, wholesale or piecemeal,” Cordray said. “We can expect that many, many borrowers will not be eager to return to repayment when they have been led to believe, or even hope, that this would never happen.”

While Corday’s comments don’t necessarily mean that student loan cancellation is definitely out of the question, it does show that the administration is preparing for millions of borrowers to start making payments again. And indeed, as first reported by POLITICO, the administration is considering a number of temporary flexibilities to ease borrowers’ transition to repayment in February. Officials have not indicated that partial cancellation of student loans will be included in these flexibilities.

Other Biden officials don’t take student loan forgiveness off the table

Yet earlier this week, in remarks to Atlantic Writer Adam Harris, Biden Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, said student loan cancellation is not out of the question. “We recognize that student debt is holding people back,” he said. “So we’re focused and it’s a priority for me and for President Biden to make sure that part of the conversation is about the loan cancellation. These conversations continue.

It is remarkable that Secretary Cardona did not close the door to canceling the student loan, but the meaning of his statement is ambiguous. The Biden administration has already announced more than $ 11 billion in student loan cancellations using executive action to extend relief to more borrowers under loan relief programs existing federal governments. This “targeted” student loan forgiveness will directly benefit hundreds of thousands of student loan borrowers, and officials may consider other ways to extend relief in a similar fashion. Yet that $ 11 billion in student loan cancellations is only a tiny fraction of the $ 1.8 trillion in total estimated student debt, and so far are well short of massive and blanket cancellation of the debt claimed by the defenders.

The student loan forgiveness note has yet to be released

In April, President Biden called on officials to conduct a formal review to determine whether there is sufficient legal authority to unilaterally enact a broad and widespread student loan forgiveness without direct congressional involvement or authorization. Several legal scholars and members of Congress have argued that existing federal laws already give a president such authority, but other officials disagreed with these findings. There is a risk that any government action to cancel student loan debt on a large scale will face legal challenges.

The White House had initially suggested that an official note containing the administration’s legal findings would be released in the weeks following the April announcement. But so far this rating has not been made public and it is unclear whether the review is even over.

Leading House Democrats sent a letter to President Biden earlier this month urging him to release the student loan forgiveness note. “Now is the time to release the memo and keep your promise to cancel student debt,” the group of 15 House Democrats wrote. The group has set October 22 as the deadline for the administration to make the note public. But that deadline has come and gone, and officials have not provided any concrete details on when – or if – it will be released. This leaves borrowers and their advocates wondering if the administration is sitting on any important conclusions about the legality of the massive student loan cancellation, or if it is still actively working on the issue, as Secretary Cardona suggested.

Further reading

Student Loan Forgiveness Changes: Who Qualifies and How to Apply for Biden’s Relief Extension

Student Loan Waiver: Did you receive a “good news” email from the Department of Education? Others are on their way.

Big changes to student loan bankruptcy rules may be coming – but questions remain

The winners and losers of Biden’s student loan forgiveness initiatives

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