Business Standard

Biden set to announce long-delayed move to forgive $10K in student loans

The plan would likely eliminate student debt entirely for millions of Americans and wipe away at least half for millions more

Joe Biden

Joe Biden, President of the USA

AP Washington
President Joe Biden on Wednesday is set to announce his long-delayed move to forgive up to USD 10,000 in federal student loans for many Americans and extend a pause on payments to January, according to three people familiar with the plan.
Biden has faced pressure from liberals to provide broader relief to hard-hit borrowers, and from moderates and Republicans questioning the fairness of any widespread forgiveness. The delay in Biden's decision has only heightened the anticipation for what his own aides acknowledge represents a political no-win situation. The people spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss Biden's intended announcement ahead of time.
The precise details of Biden's plan, which will include an income cap limiting the forgiveness to only those earning less than USD 125,000 a year, were being kept to an unusually small circle within the Biden administration and were still not finalized on the eve of the announcement.
Down-to-the-wire decision-making has been a hallmark of the Biden White House, but the particular delay on student loans reflects the vexing challenge confronting him in fulfilling a key campaign promise.
The plan would likely eliminate student debt entirely for millions of Americans and wipe away at least half for millions more.
The nation's federal student debt now tops USD 1.6 trillion after ballooning for years. More than 43 million Americans have federal student debt, with almost a third owing less than USD 10,000 and more than half owing less than USD 20,000, according to the latest federal data.
The continuation of the pandemic-era payment freeze comes just days before millions of Americans were set to find out when their next student loan bills will be due. This is the closest the administration has come to hitting the end of the payment freeze extension, with the current pause set to end August 31.
Wednesday's announcement was set for the White House after Biden returns from vacation in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. The administration had briefly considered higher education schools in the president's home state for a larger reveal, but scaled back their plans.
Biden was initially skeptical of student loan debt cancellation as he faced off against more progressive Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, who had proposed cancellations of USD 50,000 or more, during the 2020 primaries.
As he tried to shore up support among younger voters and prepare for a general election battle against then-President Donald Trump, Biden unveiled his initial proposal for debt cancellation of USD 10,000 per borrower, with no mention of an income cap.
Biden narrowed his campaign promise in recent months by embracing the income limit as soaring inflation took a political toll and as he aimed to head off political attacks that the cancellation would benefit those with higher take-home pay. But Democrats, from members of congressional leadership to those facing tough re-election bids this November, have pushed the administration to go as broad as possible on debt relief, seeing it in part as a galvanizing issue, particularly for Black and young voters this fall.
The frenzied last-minute lobbying continued Tuesday even as Biden remained on his summer vacation. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., one of the loudest advocates in recent years for canceling student loan debt, spoke privately on the phone with Biden, imploring the president to forgive as much debt as the administration can, according to a Democrat with knowledge of the call.
In his pitch, Schumer argued to Biden that doing so was the right thing to do morally and economically, said the Democrat, who asked for anonymity to describe a private conversation.
Inside the administration, officials have discussed since at least early summer forgiving more than USD 10,000 of student debt for certain categories of borrowers, such as Pell Grant recipients, according to three people with knowledge of the deliberations. That remained one of the final variables being considered by Biden heading into Wednesday's announcement.
Democrats are betting that Biden, who has seen his public approval rating tumble over the last year, can help motivate younger voters to the polls in November with the announcement.
Although Biden's plan is narrower than what he initially proposed during the campaign, "he'll get a lot of credit for following through on something that he was committed to," s aid Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster who worked with Biden during the 2020 election.
She described student debt as a "gateway issue" for younger voters, meaning it affects their views and decisions on housing affordability and career choices. A survey of 18- to 29-year-olds conducted by the Harvard Institute of Politics in March found that 59 per cent of those polled favoured debt cancellation of some sort whether for all borrowers or those most in need although student loans did not rank high among issues that most concerned people in that age group.
Some advocates were already bracing for disappointment.
"If the rumours are true, we've got a problem, Derrick Johnson, the president of the NAACP, which has aggressively lobbied Biden to take bolder action, said Tuesday. He emphasized that Black students face higher debut burdens than white students.
"President Biden's decision on student debt cannot become the latest example of a policy that has left Black people especially Black women behind, he said. "This is not how you treat Black voters who turned out in record numbers and provided 90 per cent of their vote to once again save democracy in 2020.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

Don't miss the most important news and views of the day. Get them on our Telegram channel

First Published: Aug 24 2022 | 8:36 AM IST

Explore News