Biden Won’t Support Progressive Student-Loan Forgiveness Plan, He Says


President Joe Biden pushed back at student loan forgiveness plans from his party’s progressive wing during a published interview Friday, suggesting Democrats are still divided on how far school debt relief plans should go.  

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President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the conflict in the Middle East on May 20, 2021, in … [+] Washington, D.C. Israel and Hamas announced that they would agree to a cease-fire.

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Key Facts

In an interview with New York Times columnist David Brooks, Biden said he doesn’t “agree” the government should have to pay “$70,000 bucks a year” for a University of Pennsylvania student to go to college (Biden estimated the figure almost exactly right).

His comments come days after progressive Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) urged Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loans per borrower.

In the past, Biden has proposed canceling up to $10,000 in college debt—and all debt for those who attended a public college or a Historically Black College and University (HBCU), which the University of Pennsylvania is not.  

What To Watch For

Biden has voiced skepticism about whether he can legally cancel student debt through an executive order, and he has asked Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to draft a memo on his authority to do so. 

Key Background

During the campaign, Biden pledged to cancel up to $10,000 in college debt for all students as part of Covid-19 relief, but that was not included in the $1.9 trillion relief package passed earlier this year. He also proposed canceling all debt for anyone making less than $125,000 who graduated from a public college or university, or an HBCU.  On Biden’s first day in office, he did extend President Trump’s pause on federal student loan payments through September 30. Biden has also already canceled at least $2.3 billion in loans for students with certain disabilities, or who were defrauded by for-profit schools. Last month, Biden also unveiled a sweeping $1.8 trillion child care and education package, which would, among other things, provide Americans with two free years of community college and increase Pell grants. 

Chief Critic

Progressives have argued that Biden has the authority to cancel student debt unilaterally and are pressuring him to do so. “This is something the president can do, and Leader Schumer and I are pushing hard to try to get it done,” Warren said during a Washington Post event earlier this month. 


During the 2020 presidential primary, Biden was more conservative than other candidates when it came to the issue of student loan forgiveness. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), notably proposed canceling all student debt. When Sanders dropped out, Biden adopted parts of Sanders’ platform, including a more expansive student loan forgiveness plan. 

 Further Reading

Do You Qualify For $2.3 Billion Of Student Loan Forgiveness? (Forbes)

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