With millions of borrowers on track to resume student loan repayments in just over 30 days, top congressional lawmakers wrote to President Biden Thursday, urging him to extend the payment break through the end of the year and enact broad student loan forgiveness through executive action.
Top Democrats urge Biden to extend suspension of payments and write off student debt
“We are writing to urge you to act now to extend the pause on federally held student loan repayments until at least the end of the year and to provide meaningful cancellation of student debt,” wrote several Democratic lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) who chairs the House Progressive Caucus.
“The payment pause has been an important federal investment throughout the pandemic, providing essential relief to millions of families during the economic and public health crisis and saving them an average of $393 per month,” they said. they wrote. “Restarting repayment will financially destabilize many borrowers and their families, and cause hardship for many who cannot afford to repay.”
Federal student loan payments have been suspended due to the pandemic since March 2020 and are expected to resume on May 1. Hundreds of student loan borrower advocacy groups and Democratic lawmakers have called on Biden to extend the pause again in light of historic inflation and sky-high gas prices.
Lawmakers also called on Biden to use executive action to enact a broad student loan forgiveness. “Cancelling a significant amount of student debt will bring long-term benefits to individuals and the economy, helping families buy their first home, open a small business or invest in their retirement,” they wrote. “More broadly, canceling student debt would add tens of billions of dollars to GDP growth. Canceling student debt is one of the most powerful ways to address issues of racial and economic equity.
Subtle change in student loan forgiveness messages
Interestingly, lawmakers did not urge Biden to write off a specific amount of federal student loan debt — a departure from their previous calls for Biden to write off $50,000 or more in student loan debt for every borrower. The subtle change in messaging suggests an acknowledgment that Biden may be reluctant to write off such large amounts of debt, but could be more open to lower levels of relief. Biden said he would support $10,000 in student loan forgiveness for each borrower during his presidential campaign.
Lawmakers also indicated openness to the mechanism that would enact broad student loan forgiveness. “While there may be different ideas on how best to structure cancellation, we all agree that you should cancel student debt now,” they wrote. Indeed, President Biden may have several different legal options for enacting broad student loan forgiveness, and lawmakers seem to defer to the Biden administration to use whatever method officials would be most comfortable with.
Poll shows broad support for canceling student loans
Surveys generally show broad support for at least some amount of student loan forgiveness and additional relief for borrowers.
A survey published last month by the Student Borrower Protection Center (SBPC) and Data for Progress indicated that borrowers continue to worry about their ability to resume repayment. 63% of respondents expect “major changes” in their saving or spending habits once federal student loan repayments resume in the spring. And more than 60% of borrowers have expressed support for extending the student loan payment pause until the end of the year. 64% of respondents to the same poll said they supported canceling at least some amount of student loan debt for each borrower.
In another poll published this week by Data for Progress, nearly half of respondents surveyed said adopting $10,000 to $50,000 in large student loan forgiveness would motivate them to vote in the midterm elections later this year .
Will Biden take action and cancel student debt?
Senior White House officials have indicated that executive action to extend the student loan payment pause and write off student loan debt is indeed under consideration.
“The president is going to look at what we should do on student debt before the [payment] the break expires,” White House Chief of Staff Ronald Klain said in an interview with Pod Save America earlier in March. “Whether or not there is executive action [on] canceling student debt when payments resume is a decision we will make before payments resume.
Lawmakers referenced Klain’s comments in their letter to Biden, writing that his statement was “encouraging” for borrowers. But, “Given the fast approaching deadline for borrowers to resume payments,” they wrote, “Your administration must act as quickly as possible to extend the pause and impress upon the American public your intention to cancel a significant amount of student debt.”
Further Reading on Student Loans
4 options for Biden to legally enact student loan forgiveness without Congress
Who qualifies for the $6 billion student loan forgiveness announced by the Biden administration
Biden should permanently abolish interest on student loans, says key senator
Thousands of Jobs Qualify for Expanded Student Loan Forgiveness Program