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President Joe Biden made no mention of student loan forgiveness at his State of the Union address on Tuesday. Yet a spokesperson for the administration says cancellation remains on the table.
White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said a decision on whether to forgive student debt through executive action will be made before the payments resume. The bills, which have been on pause since March 2020, are currently scheduled to start back up again in May.
“The president is going to look at what we should do on student debt before the pause expires, or he’ll extend the pause,” Klain said on the podcast “Pod Save America,” which was posted Thursday night.
The payment pause has already been extended five times throughout the pandemic.
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Some Democrats, advocates and borrowers have been frustrated that Biden has made little to no mention of loan cancellation since he’s been in office. On the campaign trail, he promised to quickly cancel $10,000 per borrower.
In addition to skipping the topic in his speech to the nation this week, he also didn’t answer a reporter’s question if he planned to still cancel the debt at a recent news conference.
The White House has maintained that the president is still considering cancellation.
Critics of a student debt jubilee say that it would be unfair to those who didn’t borrow for their education or who’ve paid off their loans and that it wouldn’t significantly stimulate the economy because college graduates tend to be higher earners more likely to redirect their monthly bill to savings than additional spending.
Yet progressives and advocates say the student debt crisis has caused the most pain for women, people of color and those who didn’t come from wealthy families who could foot the rising costs of a college education.
And they warn that inaction will hurt Democrats in the November midterms.
“A lack of movement on student debt cancellation will result in the Democratic party’s base — young people, Black voters — staying at home,” said Thomas Gokey, co-founder of the Debt Collective, a national union of debtors.
A recent poll found that nearly two-thirds of likely voters are in support of Biden canceling some or all of student debt, with more than 70% of Latino and Black voters in favor.
Gokey said it was clear advocates were having an impact on the White House’s deliberations.
“A few months ago they were adamant they had extended the payment pause for the last time,” Gokey said.
Yet he hopes that the administration doesn’t forgive $10,000 only to “sweeten restarting payments.” He and others are advocating for cancelling all of student debt.
“Cancelling $10,000 is the same thing as cancelling nothing for the vast majority of people,” he said. “We need to get everyone to zero.”