Student loans

Lawmakers and advocates seek next steps on student debt problem

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — In just weeks, the Biden administration says borrowers will be able to apply for student loan forgiveness. With the cost of a college education still high, many lawmakers and advocates say there’s still a long way to go on this issue.

Millions of people will soon see a drop in their student debt balances after President Joe Biden announced a plan to write off up to $20,000 for borrowers. It also caps regular loan repayments at 5% of a person’s income and cancels loans for some after 10 years of repayment.

Carmel Martin of the White House Domestic Policy Council said the pardon application should be available in October.

“The Ministry of Education is working around the clock to put the program in place,” Martin said.

Even with these steps, defenders are looking to the future. Melissa Byrne, with the group “We the 45M”, hopes this is just the beginning.

“Renew the fight for free college, renew the fight for more debt forgiveness,” Byrne said.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said he recognizes loan forgiveness alone is not enough.

“Everyone has work to do to make sure college is more affordable, including our higher education colleagues,” Cardona said.

Many lawmakers agree that there is more to be done on this issue, and they have some ideas.

Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., introduced a bill that would double the amount of Pell grants and lower interest rates for loans.

“The student loan crisis is not the fault of students,” Scott said.

He thinks his loan law can build on the president’s actions.

“We should make college accessible to everyone,” Scott said. “Everyone should have the opportunity to progress in society and a university education is the fastest way to achieve this.”

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., also has a pitch on college affordability. He introduced legislation that would require colleges to pay half the balance of any defaulted student loan.

“The colleges should be the ones who have to pay the loans. That’s, I think, the way to really approach the problem here, that these colleges are getting rich by taking students’ money and giving them worthless degrees,” Hawley said.

Neither plan will move forward unless Democrats and Republicans find common ground.