During the campaign, Biden had promised to eliminate a minimum of $10,000 of student loan obligation for each individual.
Here’s an examination of the reasons behind Biden’s failure to fulfill the $10,000 promise, despite providing debt relief to hundreds of thousands of borrowers, one year later.
Biden has prioritized programs for the forgiveness of preexisting conditions
The Biden administration’s approach to student loan relief began with programs already in place, which aimed at expanding, extending, or improving.
On Friday, NPR was informed by Undersecretary of Education James Kvaal that students are deserving of the assistance as they diligently strive to navigate these existing programs.
As an illustration, instead of creating fresh ones, his additional measures fundamentally uphold commitments that the U.S. Administration had already pledged to borrowers. The suspension is currently scheduled to end in February, as Biden prolonged the temporary suspension of federal student loan repayments during the pandemic, although it does not entail forgiving the loans.
The Department of Education says it is in the process of discharging roughly $12.7 billion in student debt, affecting more than 638,000 borrowers, through these efforts.
The top Republican on the House Education Committee, North Carolina Rep. Virginia Foxx, criticized the Department’s waiver of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, calling it an abuse of executive authority. Advocates and borrowers were pleased with these actions, while the controversy was not ignored by Congress.
A wider loan pardon would be even more contentious.
In February, Senator John Thune, a Republican from South Dakota, responded to the demand from some Democrats to forgive as much as $50,000 in student debt by calling it fundamentally unfair and incredibly unjust for students who have already repaid their debts.
Borrowers are obligated to repay their student debts, according to Foxx, who expresses to NPR: “It is identical to having obtained a loan for a vehicle that you subsequently realize you are unable to reimburse or obtaining a loan for a residence that you are no longer able to afford — or you decide not to afford.”
Many critics of broad loan forgiveness agree that the cost of college is out of control, but insist that canceling student debts would simply address a symptom of the problem, not the cause.
“Actually, the ‘solution’ proposed by Democrats is expected to exacerbate the situation,” Thune stated during his speech on the Senate floor.
What will be the incentive for colleges to restrain tuition growth if they think they can rely on the federal government to subsidize loan forgiveness through tuition fees?
Supporters and recipients are dissatisfied with Biden’s actions thus far.
Once again, he campaigned on the promise of $10,000 per borrower. Furthermore, he currently holds $1.6 trillion in federal student loans, a debt burden that affects nearly 46 million Americans. Although Biden’s $12.7 billion in debt relief may seem insignificant in comparison, advocates for student loan relief and several Democrats are becoming increasingly impatient, while a number of Republicans continue to oppose the idea of debt cancellation.
Persis Yu, the policy director at the Student Borrower Protection Center, asserts, “It was an unequivocal commitment that he expressed while campaigning.” “And undoubtedly, this is a commitment that numerous borrowers are currently anticipating him to honor.”
Yu also states that keeping the promise would make a huge difference, particularly for the approximately two-thirds of borrowers who have already defaulted, as it would result in approximately 16 million borrowers having their entire debts extinguished.
The Biden administration describes Bishop Mustaffa Jalil’s efforts thus far. Assistant Professor at Villanova University, he studies inequities in higher education. These crumbs are worth taking action.
Bishop Mustaffa states that historically, different generations of marginalized groups, especially students, have had various types of loans including subprime mortgages and payday lending, which have trapped them in debt. Therefore, there is a dire need for a comprehensive overhaul of the student loan system.
Many individuals from ethnic backgrounds are burdened with extensive student loans due to prevalent racial injustices, such as prevalent wealth gaps and ongoing workplace bias, as analyzed in the report “Jim Crow Debt.” This report was created in collaboration with the Education Trust and co-authored by Mustaffa Bishop, who conducted a comprehensive survey involving approximately 1,300 African American borrowers.
A 2019 report from the Institute on Assets and Social Policy at Brandeis University discovered that twenty years after commencing college, the typical debt of White students who borrowed money has been decreased by 94 percent — with nearly half of them having no student debt — while Black borrowers still owe 95 percent of their overall borrowing amount.
Out of the participants surveyed by Mustaffa Bishop, 66% admitted that they now feel remorseful about obtaining student loans.
In a statement made roughly one year ago, Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., Stated that the delivery of a diverse and broad coalition, including Harris Kamala and Biden Joe, is precisely the bold and impactful policy needed to address the student debt crisis, which is both an economic and racial justice issue. She emphasized the importance of beginning to tackle this issue by canceling student debt in a broad-based manner.
There are two methods to eliminate student loan debt.
Understanding how Biden could comprehend why he hasn’t advocated for extensive forgiveness of student loans can be achieved by examining either executive action or congressional measures.
Loan forgiveness seems to lack both, but unlocking it necessitates bipartisan backing or, at the very least, unwavering support from Democrats. Option No. 1 is undoubtedly less contentious.
Democrats continue to endorse allocating a minimum of $370 billion for student loan forgiveness, but it is difficult to envision them relinquishing their advocacy for tuition-free community college, which is estimated to cost around $45 billion. These are among the initiatives that have been removed from Biden’s Build Back Better agenda.
Therefore, it is probable that this door is locked — and possibly barricaded from the interior.
That means you have Door No. 2 remaining.
Nearly two years ago, NPR published a primer about the authority of the president’s secretary of education to simply cancel the debts of millions of borrowers.
On an individual basis, in order to annul $50,000, “I do not believe I possess the power” acknowledging during a town hall meeting in February 2021 that it is uncertain whether nullifying student debts through a simple action would be legally valid, among other concerns, President Biden does not appear to be inclined to test this approach.
And Biden is not the only one with doubts.
“The president can’t do it,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Speaking to the media in July. “That’s not even a discussion.”.
Pelosi’s conclusion on whether Biden acted unilaterally was driven by political expediency or facts, which can be seen as providing cover for Biden’s failure to fulfill a campaign promise.
As per the Brookings Institution, pardoning $10,000 per borrower would entail an approximate expense of $370 billion. Remitting $50,000 per borrower may result in a cost of around $1 trillion. Additionally, the issue of cost should also be considered.
Foxx inquires, ‘What is the justification for taxpayers — 70% of whom did not attend university — repaying loans for individuals who have not fulfilled their responsibilities?’ (According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 report, ‘Between 2010 and 2019, the proportion of individuals aged 25 and above with at least a bachelor’s degree increased from 29.9% to 36.0%.’)
Foxx believes that this question of popularity is a significant factor contributing to Biden’s reluctance to take action.
I think maybe the president doesn’t understand why forgiveness of broad loan is not popular in this country, which is why he hasn’t gone the route of doing it in some way.
The polling suggests that forgiveness of student debt would be popular, but with some nuances if done. For example, a poll conducted in March by Grinnell College found that 27% of respondents supported forgiving all student debt “for those in need”. However, the Harris Poll and Progress/Data Vox polling found that a majority of respondents supported limited forgiveness, if done broadly.
Over half a year later, the outcomes remain to be determined. Instead of taking unilateral action, Biden requested the Education and Justice departments to examine his legal alternatives this year.
In an NPR interview, the undersecretary of education, Kvaal, stated that the administration is intentionally delaying progress for some unknown reason, which is causing concern among many Democrats and advocates. The White House has remained largely silent on the issue of loan cancellation since then.
Kvaal clarified, “You need to think about the rationale that can be applied to the standards. Legal authority is not something that can be switched on and off.” We are still continuing deliberations where we are carefully examining whether we can cancel loans across the board for everyone. We are closely working with the Department of Justice and the White House on this matter.
The clock may be ticking
Biden can argue that it is time to broadly eliminate student debts. If not addressed, the shrinking of Congress’ majorities in Democrats next year may be attributed to the failure to address this issue.
The Department of Education has stated that federal student loan payments, which will require an early resume on Jan. 31 during the paused pandemic, are what’s more.
Two of those companies, which cater to approximately 15 million borrowers, are collectively transitioning out of the federal student loan industry. Many borrowers will require the need to communicate with their loan servicing company in order to discuss changes in repayment options. It is astonishing to think that for over a year and a half, millions of borrowers have been navigating through a repayment system that has not been utilized.
It has been reported by NPR that there are several experts within the department, including a handful, who say that it is challenging to expect repayment for this return.
If broad-based student loan forgiveness were to happen, it would make sense in the world before Jan. 31. Biden’s campaign pledge would mean that millions of borrowers would have their debts erased, allowing them to avoid potentially disastrous payment restarts.
If in any case, it’s difficult to envision widespread forgiveness occurring in the near future unless he fulfills his commitment to forgive the $10,000 loan by that time. However, this does not imply that Biden is obliged to do so.