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Student Loan Forgiveness: Has Biden Upheld His Campaign Promises?

Shutterstock / Shutterstock
Shutterstock / Shutterstock

President Joe Biden has been in Washington, D.C., for more than half a century — long enough to know that while it’s easy to make promises on the campaign trail, fulfilling those promises is a different story. A case in point is the president’s 2020 campaign promises to forgive student loan debt on a grand scale.

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As The Hill noted in a column this week, Biden had “lofty education goals” during his 2020 campaign, including increased education funding and reforms to higher education and student debt.

“We should forgive a minimum of $10,000/person of federal student loans, as proposed by [Democratic Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren] and colleagues,” Biden tweeted in 2020, per The Hill. “Young people and other student debt holders bore the brunt of the last crisis. It shouldn’t happen again.”

Biden followed up his campaign rhetoric by proposing ambitious plans as president, including a federal student loan forgiveness program that aimed to cancel up to $20,000 per borrower for tens of millions of Americans. But that program met with legal and political resistance almost from the day it was unveiled in August 2022 and was shot down by the U.S. Supreme Court less than a year later.

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Has Biden Kept His Promises on Canceling Student Loan Debt?

Scoring whether Biden upheld his campaign promises regarding student loan forgiveness is tricky because there’s only so much a president can do in a divided government. It was easier during Biden’s first two years in office, when Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress. But when Republicans won the U.S. House in November 2022, the job became much harder.

In terms of forgiving student debt, the president has scored a few victories in recent months. In July, the administration said it would cancel $39 billion of debt for 804,000 student loan borrowers under income-driven repayment (IDR) plans.

Later that month, the U.S. Department of Education launched a beta website for a new IDR initiative called the Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE) Plan. The SAVE Plan will eliminate monthly payments for low-income borrowers, save other borrowers at least $1,000 per year on payments, and ensure borrowers don’t see their balances grow from unpaid interest, an Education Department spokesperson said at the time.

In 2024, SAVE will also cut monthly payments from 10% of a person’s discretionary income to 5%, The Hill reported.

“I’m thrilled to see that in less than three months, nearly 5.5 million Americans in every community across the country are taking advantage of the SAVE Plan’s many benefits, from lower monthly payments to protection from runaway student loan interest,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement. “The Biden-Harris Administration will not rest in its efforts to fix the broken student loan system and make paying for college more affordable.”

Also in July, the Biden administration said it would cancel the federal student loan debts of about 200,000 borrowers who claimed to be defrauded by their schools. The announcement followed a class-action lawsuit settlement filed in federal court. The settlement reportedly could wipe out more than $6 billion of student loan debt.

Some Critics Want Biden To Do More

But these measures don’t cover nearly as many borrowers as the White House hoped to reach with its loan forgiveness plans. Some advocates of student loan forgiveness want to see Biden do more.

Braxton Brewington, press secretary for the Debt Collective, told The Hill that Biden should use an executive order to clear student debt or reinstate the payment pause on federal student loans that expired in October 2023.

Among other things, Brewington would like to see the president say that he’s “canceling student debt” or “keeping student loan payments paused for the rest of my administration.”

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This article originally appeared on Student Loan Forgiveness: Has Biden Upheld His Campaign Promises?