Learning from the eviction moratorium crisis, the Biden administration got a jump on the federal student loan repayment pause. The Department of Education announced this final extension of the repayment pause would extend through January 31, 2022.
U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona issued a statement explaining the final extension gave “borrowers the time they need to plan for restart and ensure a smooth pathway back to repayment.” Sen. Chuck Schumer joined Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Ayanna Pressley in calling for the extension as a stopgap on the way to canceling student loan debt outright.
But Cardona didn’t mention any plans of canceling student loan debt. “It is the Department’s priority to support students and borrowers during this transition and ensure they have the resources they need to access affordable, high-quality higher education,” continued Cardona.
Biden previously directed Cardona to draft a memo exploring the president’s authority to discharge student loan debt. After several months, there still has been no word on the status of the memo.
In April, Warren and Pressley held a press conference calling for the president to cancel $50,000 of federal student loan debt by executive order. Warren has previously estimated that forgiving student loan debt could help close the racial wealth gap.
Data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that Black students have an estimated $25,000 more in student loan debt than their white counterparts. NAACP President Derrick Johnson previously told Inside Higher Education that addressing the racial wealth gap means tackling student loan debt.
“By way of background, the power to create debt is generally understood to include the power to cancel it,” wrote Office Legal Services staff. “Congress has granted the Secretary a more specific and unrestricted authority to create and to cancel or modify debt owed under federal student loan programs in the Higher Education Act (HEA) itself. That provision empowers the Secretary to execute the broad debt cancellation plan you have proposed.”
Conversations around student loan debt have picked up steam during the pandemic, with several HBCUs discharging debts of enrolled students. As previously reported by NewsOne, the ongoing pandemic has caused a financial strain for many HBCU students.
Delaware State University and Clark Atlanta University are among the schools giving students and their families more than a brief reprieve. Delaware State recently forgave the debts of 200 graduates impacted by the pandemic.
By forgiving student debts and wiping out tuition payments, these schools have kept students from having to put their studies on hold. Federal action on student loans could extend that benefit to all Black students and borrowers.