WASHINGTON — As pressure mounts from progressives to provide relief for student borrowers, President Joe Biden said Thursday he plans to use executive power in coming weeks to write off student loan debt — but less than $50,000.
“I’m looking at facing debt reduction,” Biden said when asked by USA TODAY. “I’m looking closely at whether or not…there will be further debt forgiveness and I’ll have a response on that within the next two weeks.”
Biden did not respond when asked how much he plans to cancel.
Biden faces growing pressure to offer widespread debt relief to student borrowers as the administration continues to suspend student loan repayments.
As of March 2020, the federal government froze the requirement that the country’s 41 million borrowers repay their federal student loans. Biden extended the moratorium until August 31 after it expired in May.
Biden earlier this week told a group of lawmakers he was seeking to forgive some student loan debt, Rep. Tony Cardenas, D-California, said this week.
Biden met with leaders of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Monday, where the topic of student loans was discussed.
Cardenas said during an interview on MSNBC on Wednesday that he asked the president “to consider forgoing at least $10,000 or more of debt for every American who has student loan debt.”
“He said, again, we’re going to be very happy with that. He is already working on it,” Cardenas said. “We would like to see him eliminate student debt at all levels, but anything that goes in that direction will be a positive effort and we look forward to the president’s encouragement.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden is looking to see what he can do through executive action to offer relief to student borrowers.
Asked if Biden had determined he had the authority to cancel student loan debt through executive action, Psaki said, “There has not yet been a conclusion of any process in internal.”
PSAki noted that the president isn’t necessarily waiting for Congress to pass legislation that will cancel student loan debt.
“If Congress sent him a bill tomorrow … he would sign it to give $10,000 in student debt relief,” Psaki added.
During the election campaign, Biden promised to forgive at least $10,000 of student debt for every American.
Biden said Thursday he was not considering a $50,000 debt reduction — a figure some lawmakers have said the president has the power to forgive.
Wisdom Cole, national director of the NAACP Youth & College Division, slammed Biden’s comments Thursday, saying writing off at least $50,000 is student loan debt.
“President Biden, we agree that we should not forgive $50,000 in student loan debt. We should call it all off,” Cole said in a statement. “$50,000 was just the bottom line. For the black community, which has racked up debt over generations of oppression, anything less is unacceptable.”
Biden’s comments came the same day his administration announced it was offering targeted debt relief to alumni of a beauty school as part of its borrower advocacy program.
Students who attended Marinello Beauty Schools from 2009 until it closed in 2016 are eligible for assistance. The forgiveness initiative clears debt from students who can prove they were defrauded by their schools.
The administration has written off about $18.5 billion in student loan debt since Biden took office. And about $2.1 billion of that has benefited about 132,000 people under the Borrower Defense Program.
Contributor: Chris Quintana
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