Long reluctant to erase student loan debt by executive order, President Joe Biden may be shifting his position. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona was asked to research and draft a memo laying legal options available to the president.
The review comes as progressive lawmakers and various constituent groups call for the president to forgive at least a portion of existing student loan debt. Members of Congress, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Chuck Schumer, and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, insist the president can erase $50,000 of federal student loan debt with a stroke of the pen.
During a press conference with Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, Pressley called the student loan struggle an “all too familiar story for too many people.” She said the intersecting crises of economic hardship, racial injustice, and white supremacy and the ongoing student loan debt crisis demanded real action.
“What this moment calls for is that we are bold and intentional in our policymaking at every level of government, to confront these overlapping crises head-on and to set ourselves on a pathway to a just and equitable recovery,” said Presley.
She also said Biden needed to “do right by the movement that elected him” and cancel $50,000 of federal student loan debt by executive order.
According to Pressley, eighty-five percent of Black students believe they have to take out student loans, and they are five times more likely to default on their loans. She also pointed out that borrowers 50 and older are the fastest-growing population of those who owe student loan debt.
Biden has previously said he did not think people who went to top-tier schools should benefit; failing to acknowledge such a policy could negatively impact people from disadvantaged backgrounds who were more likely to take out loans. Also, some data suggests that less than 1% of all student loan borrowers attended Ivy League schools. Nearly half of all borrowers took out money to attend public colleges.
Canceling $50,000 in federal student debt was a part of Warren’s platform when she ran for president. She explained that the $10,000 Biden previously pledged to cancel does not go far enough for most people.
Warren said that from her team’s review of the data, canceling $50,000 helps most people carrying federal student loan debt. Warren also described seeing changes to the bankruptcy rules permit individuals who might have over $50,000 in federal student loans to use that process to discharge the debt.
“The student debt crisis has always been a racial and economic justice issue,” Pressley continued, directly challenging skewed narratives around student loan debt. “But for too long that narrative has excluded Black and Latinx communities when in fact the student debt crisis has exacerbated deeply entrenched racial and economic inequities in our nation.”
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