17 State Attorneys General Push Biden To Cancel $50,000 In Student Loans, Adding To Pressure Campaign

February 19, 2021 – 17 Democratic state attorneys general have added their voices — and the weight of their offices — to the growing chorus of activists and lawmakers calling on Biden to cancel $50,000 in student debt for borrowers.

The initiative, led by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and New York Attorney General Letitia James, supports Senate and House resolutions that call on Biden to use executive action to enact widespread student loan forgiveness.

“Because we are responsible for enforcing our consumer protection laws, we are keenly aware of the substantial burden Federal student loan debt places on the residents of our states,” they wrote in a letter to Congressional leaders. “Our Offices routinely receive complaints from borrowers who are unable to navigate the abstruse and opaque repayment or forgiveness plans available under current law.”

They noted that student loan borrowers were already struggling before the pandemic and recession, and that “many borrowers already owed more than they originally borrowed.” Around 20% of federal student loan borrowers are delinquent or in default.

While detractors of broad student loan forgiveness have argued that existing programs like Public Service Loan Forgiveness and income-driven repayment already provide relief to borrowers, these programs have been plagued by complex eligibility requirements and a byzantine loan servicing system that often fails borrowers.

“The existing repayment system for Federal student loans provides insufficient opportunity for struggling borrowers to manage their debts or recover from the current economic crisis,” wrote the attorneys general. “Broad cancellation of Federal student loan debt will provide immediate relief to millions who are struggling during this pandemic and recession, and give a much-needed boost to families and our economy.”

At a CNN town hall in Wisconsin earlier this week, President Biden rejected efforts by progressive lawmakers and consumer rights groups to convince him to cancel $50,000 in student loan debt through executive action, saying bluntly that he would “not make that happen.”

But Biden did not close the door on student loan forgiveness. At the same town hall event, the President reiterated his support for “writing off” $10,000 in student loan debt for borrowers. And while he suggested that his objection to a higher amount of student loan forgiveness was due to his concern that the benefits would skew towards borrowers who attended elite private institutions, he did not completely reject an amount of student loan forgiveness higher than $10,000. Nor did he outright reject the notion of using executive authority to cancel student debt.

The President has indicated that his preference would be for Congress to pass legislation providing student loan relief, including student loan forgiveness. Meanwhile, the White House has tasked the U.S. Department of Justice with evaluating the legality of cancelling student debt through executive action alone.

By Adam S. Minsky, Forbes
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