Is student loan forgiveness by President Biden a last-ditch means of getting young voters back on the team before the midterm elections?
Donald Trump’s administration first put in place the federal student loan repayment freeze as a pandemic relief measure in March 2020. President Biden announced earlier this month he was extending the federal student loan repayment freeze through August 31, 2022.
Joe Biden: We are still recovering from the pandemic and the unprecedented economic disruption it caused, Additional time will assist borrowers in achieving greater financial security and support the Department of Education’s efforts to continue improving student loan programs.
From government estimates: 43 million people in the U.S. have a combined total of $1.6 trillion in federal student loans.
The job market, with an estimated 11 million+ job openings at the end of February, has had a major rebound.
With COVID-19 all but a thing of the past, why is the Biden administration not committed to resuming payments at the end of the latest extension?
According to White House press secretary Jen Psaki, “[The moratorium] is either going to be extended or we’re going to make a decision” (about canceling debt).
Secretary of Education (under Trump) Betsy DeVos writes, “The White House should just be honest about what they’re doing and announce they’ll turn the loan portfolio on after Election Day.”
Some Democrats argue the freeze doesn’t go far enough:
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, “I don’t think those folks understand the panic and disorder it causes people to get so close to these deadlines just to extend the uncertainty. We should cancel them.”
Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders would wipe out borrowers’ debt entirely.
Presidential candidate Joe Biden campaigned on forgiving “a minimum of $10,000” in student debt per borrower. Since taking office, Biden has supported legislation aimed at accomplishing that goal.
But that won’t be happening in this current Congress. Leading progressives and advocacy organizations are demanding Biden wipe away students’ debt unilaterally with an executive order—something, as The Dispatch notes, is “far from clear he has the legal authority to do.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who favors $50,000 in debt forgiveness, promised activists last week that the White House is getting closer to canceling debt on its own. “I have told the president this is one of the most important things he can do to help our economy,” Schumer said. “We want our young people to realize that they can have a good future.”
(It’s also potentially one of the most important things he can do to help Democrats’ political prospects, as Biden won about three in five college-graduate voters in 2020 as the country continued polarizing around educational attainment. He’s been bleeding support from young voters in recent months, and party strategists see student loan forgiveness as a last-ditch means of getting them back on the team before the midterms.)
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