Biden zeroes in on student loan debt forgiveness plan

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President Joe Biden, seen here at the White House on May 25. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

(The Hill) — President Biden is nearing a decision on student loan debt forgiveness, with the president and his team zeroing in on canceling $10,000 per borrower, with some potential caveats.

White House officials cautioned that no decision has been finalized as Biden weighs his options. The president was scheduled to speak at the University of Delaware’s graduation ceremony on Saturday.

Multiple reports indicated Biden considered using the weekend commencement ceremonies to announce some student debt forgiveness. The Washington Post reported the timing was changed in the wake of a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 children dead. A White House official disputed that was the case, however.

“No decisions have been made yet — but as a reminder, no one has been required to pay a single dime of student loans since the president took office,” said deputy press secretary Vedant Patel.

Multiple sources told The Hill in late April that Biden was looking at canceling at least $10,000 in student debt, and indications are the White House appears to have settled on that number even as they work through potential limits on who the loan cancellation would benefit.

The Washington Post reported Friday that the latest iteration of the plan called for capping the debt forgiveness to individuals who earned less than $150,000 last year, or $300,000 for married couples. It is also unclear if the cancelation would apply to all student loan debt or just undergraduate students.

In the 2020 campaign, Biden supported forgiving at least $10,000 in federal student loans per person after several other candidates made student loan forgiveness a key part of their platforms.

Since taking office, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., have repeatedly pushed Biden on the issue, insisting it would provide immediate relief to minorities and low- and middle-income families. Schumer has called for canceling up to $50,000 in student debt per borrower.

While that large a sum has been publicly ruled out, Biden has made increasingly clear in recent weeks that he is prepared to provide some student debt forgiveness.

“I am not considering $50,000 debt reduction, but I’m in the process of taking a hard look at whether or not there will be additional debt forgiveness, and I’ll have an answer on that in the next couple of weeks,” Biden said on April 28, days after he reportedly told members of the Hispanic Congressional Caucus he was open to forgiving some student loans.

The White House has yet to give an updated timeline in the month since Biden said a decision was a couple of weeks out, but officials have pointed to actions that have helped student loan borrowers over the past year and a half.

Biden last month extended the pandemic moratorium on federal student loan payments and interest accrual through August. Loan payments were first paused in March 2020, early in the pandemic under then-President Trump, and the moratorium has been extended multiple times since.

The White House has repeatedly said Biden is prepared to sign legislation canceling student loan debt but, in the meantime, is weighing what authority the president has to wipe out some debt unilaterally.

Conservative critics have pushed for student loan payments to resume, arguing the moratorium has cost the federal government billions of dollars and that any widespread forgiveness would benefit disproportionately wealthy Americans. A Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget study found roughly 75% of student loan repayments come from the top 40% of earners.

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