Student loans

Biden’s student loan plan shrouded in mystery

President Biden’s next move on student loans has been a mystery, with the White House failing to communicate with advocates and instead keeping stakeholders in the dark as the president decides whether to forgive large-scale student loans. ladder.

Biden said a $10,000 debt forgiveness per borrower is on the table, but continues to delay making a final decision. Now, with the student loan pause ending next month and the midterm elections just months away, borrowers don’t know what to expect.

“We have seen a shift in the White House’s desire to meet with advocates. If you are not willing to meet with us at this point, you should, at the very least, meet with the borrowers,” said Natalia Abrams, president and founder of the Student Debt Crisis Center (SDCC).

The SDCC organized a petition this month urging Biden to meet with borrowers before making a decision on cancellation. The petition, which has garnered more than 100,000 signatures, notes that it has been more than a year since borrowers met with Education Secretary Miguel Cardona on the issue.

“We lobbied to meet with the White House to discuss again why borrowers need to meet with the White House and received less than friendly or neutral response,” Abrams added.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuesday that Biden would make a decision on student loan repayments but would “let him do the talking.”

In April, Biden extended a pandemic moratorium on federal student loan repayments and interest accrual until August 31. Biden told reporters last week that “late August” was his timeline for making a decision.

It’s been more than a year since the president said he would make a decision on student loans, under pressure from progressives and advocates for the forgiveness of large chunks of student loans, ranging from $10,000 to $50,000 upon total cancellation.

“I think it’s really important for the administration to hear directly from those who are most affected by the toll student debt has on their lives,” said Wisdom Cole, national director of the NAACP Youth and College Division.

“When the administration hears the stories of borrowers, teachers, people who work in various work forces, people who have worked on the front lines during this pandemic, they will learn how the more they cancel, the better able they are. to prepare a future for – not just for some borrowers but for all borrowers and all Americans,” he added.

The lack of communication with lawyers became evident this spring, after the president extended the freeze. Groups say the administration has since kept them in the dark.

A lawyer said the White House and Vice President Harris’ office had “totally ignored” requests for meetings and “ghosted” them. Meanwhile, they said they were ‘pledged to other people’ when they asked the Department of Education to meet Cardona.

Another described the White House as “disinterested in taking a meeting” and “reluctant to meet with advocates.”

“Cancelling student debt should be an easy win, and instead Biden risks turning it into a massive failure just weeks before the midterm elections in which the future of democracy hangs in the balance. game. Now is the time to go big and bold,” said Debt Collective organizer Thomas Gokey.

He also argued that Biden needed to meet with the borrowers before making his decision.

“The White House is playing with fire and risking everything. This is an unforgivable political mistake. The president should meet with student debtors, and quickly,” he said.

Other White House officials were silent when asked for student loan updates, including top economic adviser Brian Deese, who said Tuesday he had nothing new to share. . The White House did not respond to a request for comment on the lack of communication with student loan activists.

Lawmakers, meanwhile, spoke to the president during his decision-making process on student debt. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (DN.Y.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) met with Biden in May to seek forgiveness.

Borrowers are feeling discouraged and feel like their lives are in limbo while they wait for news from the White House on student loans, advocates relayed from conversations with borrowers.

“Over the last three months we’ve been playing this back and forth about whether there was going to be an announcement or not, and now that we’re approaching the payment return deadline, we need to see a strong politics and an increase in the amount of debt the president must cancel,” said Cole of the NAACP, who argued for a minimum of $50,000 in forgiveness.

A Department of Education spokesperson told The Hill this week that the administration was still assessing whether to extend the payment pause, but borrowers would be notified “directly” when the freeze ended. The statement follows reports that student loan service providers have been told not to send billing statements.

Biden supported canceling at least $10,000 of federal student loan debt during his 2020 presidential campaign. In April, Biden said a decision would be made “in the coming weeks.”

Proponents argue that the White House keeps other activists informed about other issues, such as gun violence prevention. There is also growing uncertainty about who makes the decisions related to debt cancellation, while the White House has appointed resource persons for other issues, such as domestic policy adviser Susan Rice for control of fire arms.

“Which other aides and experts in the room does the president trust with this decision? It has become less clear over time,” said SDCC executive director Cody Hounanian.

Activists, however, were encouraged by Biden’s decision in June to forgive billions in student debt for former Corinthian College students, which pressured the White House to offer greater relief. Now they are waiting for a final decision.

“People are anxious, voters are anxious, and the president has a base of anxiety about payments that affect people,” Cole said. “His own base, the base of voters who elected him, is now anxious, and we are awaiting a decision.”