Biden's New Student Loan Relief Plan Is Another BFD

Organizers who have tirelessly pushed for student debt cancellation applauded on Monday as President Joe Biden—who years ago dismissed the proposal as “unrealistic”—announced a plan to help tens of millions of Americans burdened with educational debt.

Biden announced his new plan at Madison Area Technical College in Madison, Wisconsin, less than a year after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down his previous program, which would have provided relief to 40 million borrowers by canceling up to $20,000 in debt per person.

Aissa Canchola Bañez, policy director of the Student Borrower Protection Center (SBPC) credited Biden with publicly resolving to find a solution for struggling Americans “only hours after the Supreme Court callously struck down his original debt relief program.”

The president’s new plan would wipe out the entire debt amount held by about 4 million people, give debt relief of at least $5,000 to 10 million borrowers, and reduce the undergraduate and graduate student debt of 23 million people whose interest would be eliminated.

The plan would allow millions of young people to “finally get on with their lives instead of their lives being put on hold,” said the president.

Student debt is “not just a drag on them, it’s a drag on our local economies,” Biden said in Madison. “When you can’t afford to buy a home, start that small business, chase that career that you’d been dreaming about for a long time.”

Bañez said in addition to bringing “tens of millions of borrowers one step closer to realizing the life-changing impact of student debt cancellation,” Biden’s announcement “also offers a roadmap for how this administration should deal with a hostile Supreme Court majority captured by right-wing special interests.”

“Call the high court’s bluff by aggressively using the full power of the law and delivering for working people,” she said. “For too long, student debt has blocked homeownership, inhibited savings, limited career opportunities and economic mobility, and choked at the promise of entire generations. Taken together, the Biden administration’s actions are setting a path to a debt-free, brighter economic future for more than 30 million Americans.”

“Now, the president must move fast and finish the job,” she added.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said pressure from “borrowers, activists, and progressives in Congress” pushed Biden to develop a new plan after his original program was struck down.

“Progressives were the earliest and loudest champions of student debt cancellation, and this president is delivering—despite Republican obstruction,” she said. “We are proud to continue our partnership with the Biden administration on its implementation of this and other pathways to cancellation.”

The Biden administration said it expected Republicans to file legal challenges, which could prevent the new provisions from going into effect by the time Americans choose between Biden and former President Donald Trump in November.

“President Biden will use every tool available to cancel student loan debt for as many borrowers as possible no matter how many Republican officials stand in his way,” Karine Jean Pierre, the White House press secretary, told The New York Times.

Americans who now owe more in student debt than the amount that they originally borrowed due to interest would have up to $20,000 in interest wiped out. People who make less than $120,000 per year could have all of their interest canceled.

People who took out federal loans for undergraduate degrees and began repaying them more than 20 years ago would have their debt automatically canceled. The same would apply for people who began repaying their graduate degree loans more than 25 years ago.

People who attended colleges that have since lost their certification or their eligibility to participate in federal student aid would have their debt wiped out, and Americans who are particularly burdened with other necessary expenses could apply to have their debt canceled.

The program “will change lives,” said U.S. Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) as she pledged to continue her push to “cancel student debt fully.”

Andrew O’Neill, legislative director for progressive advocacy group Indivisible, noted that combined with the $146 billion in relief Biden has already provided to about 4 million borrowers through executive actions and other measures, “more than 30 million folks will now get relief from Biden’s programs.”

“Progressives have led the fight for student debt cancellation, and Joe Biden has responded,” O’Neill told the Times.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a longtime advocate of student debt cancellation and tuition-free college, applauded Biden for “using every possible tool to reduce student debt.”

Astra Taylor, a filmmaker and leading student debt cancellation activist, noted that Biden’s plan falls short of complete debt relief, but said the power of economic justice campaigners’ advocacy is undeniable, considering the president’s decision to prioritize student debt.

“A reminder that a U.S. president leaning into debt cancellation like this was unimaginable not that many years ago,” said Taylor. “Do we need to keep pushing so actions match words? Yes. Do we need to keep fighting to win not only debt relief but free college? Of course.”

“Organizing,” she added, “is everything.”

Republished from Common Dreams under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).

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