By Brynn Sherbert, Mar. 8, 2021
President Joe Biden’s initial steps on addressing student loan debt were passed through executive action on his first day in office, extending the payment pause and interest accrual on federal student loans from the Trump administration’s first coronavirus relief bill through to Sept. 30. However, Biden has essentially ruled out canceling $50,000 in student debt per person, disappointing some students and faculty who were counting on that help.
At Cal Poly Pomona, the average student loan debt per borrower is $22,404 and the percent of graduates with student debt is 53%, according to a 2018 student loan report from LendEDU.
The National Association of Student Financial Aid and Administrations reported that Biden proposed forgiving up to $10,000 of federal student loan debt per borrower via Congressional legislation. However, several more progressive Democrats have argued Biden has the authority to forgive through further executive action without Congress passing any legislation.
“Biden’s plan would benefit CPP students because student debt effectively cripples a generation for years to come and this would help ease the burden,” said Daniel Hernandez,
a second-year political science student. “It would also open up opportunities not only for students but society.”
However, the Biden administration does not believe the president has the authority to enact widespread student loan debt forgiveness without going through Congress.
Democratic lawmakers on Feb. 4 introduced a pair of resolutions in both houses of Congress reasserting a call made previously by Sens. Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren for Biden to cancel $50,000 in student debt per borrower.
They argue that the Constitution gives Congress the power to “dispose of” the property of the United States. Student loans are federally funded; therefore, the debt could be forgiven. Further, Congress gave the secretary of education to do so under the Higher Education Act, presumably without Congressional approval.
“The student loan forgiveness plan would certainly be better for countless number of students if the plan were forgiving larger amounts of debt,” second year political science, Alvin Wong said. “However, Biden’s attempt to forgive student loans for people struggling is necessary during these unprecedented times.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki affirmed Biden’s support but stopped short of promising action by executive order.
“Our team is reviewing whether there are any steps he can take through executive action and he would welcome the opportunity to sign a bill sent to him by Congress,” Psaki responded via Twitter on Feb. 4.
NASFAA reported that currently over 43 million people in the United States are buried under $1.5 trillion dollars in federal student loan debt, including 6.3 million borrowers ages 50-64. Also, 37% of Americans over the age of 65 are in default of their student loans.
“As a moderate member of the Democratic Party, it is not that surprising that Biden has not fully supported $50,000 of debt, an idea that was advanced throughout the campaign,” said Mario
Guerrero, chair and associate professor in the Department of Political Science. “With rising tuition costs, college is becoming inaccessible for millions which will be exacerbated by the pan-demic.”
Sandy Baum, senior fellow at the Center on Education Data and Policy at the Urban Institute, featured in The Daily Pennsylvanian, spoke on the impact of student debt on people.
“Student loan debt is disproportionately held by households in the top half of the nation’s income distribution and a third of borrowers owe no more than $10,000,” Baum said. “These borrowers are the ones who are most likely to default on their loans and struggle to make their payments.”
According to federal data, approximately 42.9 million Americans with federal student loan debt each owe an average $36,406 for their federal loans.
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