Congressional progressives ramped up pressure on the Biden administration for a sweeping order to forgive student loan debt, shifting focus once again to one of their top priorities after the House passage of the social spending bill on Friday.
“Now let’s help everyone and cancel at least $50,000 in student loan debt for everyone,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, tweeted Saturday.
“I won’t stop fighting to #CancelStudentDebt,” added Rep. Nikema Williams, a Georgia Democrat.
President Joe Biden has so far resisted calls for a blanket cancellation of student loan debt, which has more than tripled since 2000. With nearly 45 million individuals receiving a bill each month, Americans now owe over $1.8 trillion in student loans—more than the country’s total debt on auto loans and credit cards.
Progressive lawmakers and advocates have been pushing the Biden administration to cancel $50,000 in debt with an executive order, which would wipe out the debt burden of 36 million individuals—including roughly 10 million who are in delinquency or default, according to data from the Education Department.
“The pause on student loan payments has allowed millions of borrowers to start a business, participate in our economy, and save for the future. Imagine what could happen if borrowers had permanent relief. It’s time to cancel student debt, @POTUS,” Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat, tweeted on Friday.
The Democratic-controlled House passed the $1.7 trillion social safety net and climate bill Friday, which includes $555 billion in climate initiatives, child care funding, universal pre-K, and extension of health care subsidies.
The absence of student loan forgiveness in the sweeping bill has frustrated activists and borrowers, who want Biden to honor his campaign promise of canceling up to $10,000 in debt. The president has already forgiven $9.5 billion for borrowers with disabilities and individuals who were deceived into attending now-defunct colleges.
Supporters argue that forgiving student loan debt would ease racial and economic inequality.
In 2019, 10 percent of student loan borrowers were in default, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics. Black graduates with a bachelor’s degree are more likely to default than white college dropouts. About 32 percent of Black Americans who went to college 10 years ago have since gone into default.
Advocates of student loan forgiveness have also stressed that the cost of living has been rising at a much faster rate in recent years than the salaries of college graduates.
Critics, however, say it’s unfair to cancel student loan debt for wealthier borrowers who graduated from elite colleges, such as Yale and Harvard.
In August, the Department of Education announced a final extension of the pandemic-related pause on student loan repayment, interest, and collections until January 31, 2022.
The Biden administration asked Education Secretary Miguel Cardona in April to produce a memo outlining the president’s legal authority to eliminate student debt. Seven months later, the results have not yet been released to the public despite pressure from progressives.
Newsweek reached out to the White House for comment.