WASHINGTON – The Biden administration entered the White House with an eye toward relieving the strain of student loan debt, particularly amid the added financial burden of the coronavirus pandemic.
On Day One in office, President Joe Biden signed an executive order extending a pause student federal loan payments enacted by the previous administration as part of COVID-19 relief. Liberal activists and lawmakers urged the president to go further and cancel student loan debt, but he has said firmly that he does not believe he has the authority to do so by executive order.
That changed Thursday, when White House chief of staff Ron Klain said Biden asked his education secretary to explore the president’s authority to cancel student loan debt, a sign he is open to moving left on the issue.
Critics of student loan debt forgiveness, including conservatives and some liberals, argue that it would unfairly benefit higher-income earners with college educations and that individuals who took out loans have a responsibility to pay them back, regardless of circumstance.
Biden’s push for student loan changes
Though Biden has been hesitant to bypass Congress on canceling student loan debt, he has said since the days of his campaign that the government needs to help those with “debilitating” student debt.
“I understand the impact of debt,” he said at a CNN town hall in February.
Biden said student loans should have 0% interest – a move he enacted alongside the repayment freeze through September. He expanded student loan forgiveness for public-sector workers and canceled debt for students defrauded by for-profit schools.
He’s hesitant to cancel loan debt for those who went to top-tier schools. The federal government should not forgive debt for students who went to elite schools such as “Harvard and Yale and Penn,” Biden said.
Thursday, Klain said Biden asked Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to craft a memo on the president’s executive authority to cancel student loan debt.
“He’ll look at that legal authority, he’ll look at the policy issues around that and he’ll make a decision,” Klain said in an interview with Politico Playbook.
Enacting student loan forgiveness through Congress might be difficult in an evenly split Senate…Read more>>