Most adults in the United States have now received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and as a result, a sense of normalcy is beginning to return. Sixty-six percent of respondents in a recent survey indicated that their lives have at least partially returned to normal. But with this return to normalcy comes a harsh reality: the return to business as usual comes with the impending resumption of student loan repayments.
Shortly after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, student loan repayments were frozen as part of the CARES Act passed in March 2020. The Trump administration then extended the freeze on loan repayments in September 2020 before President Biden signed an executive order upon taking office that further extended the freeze through September 2021.
With the October 1 deadline for the resumption of student loan repayments inching closer, questions remain about whether or not the Biden administration will once again extend the freeze. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, when asked if the administration was planning to extend the freeze, responded that it was an issue the Biden administration would be looking at, adding that the decision would be data-driven and based on the country’s overall progress in pandemic recovery. Secretary Cardona also indicated that whenever student loan repayments do begin again, there would be a “ramp-up” implemented in order to make sure that the process was “as smooth as possible” for borrowers.
The potential end of the student loan repayment freeze is a very daunting prospect for those who hold student loan debt. Americans now reportedly owe $1.7 trillion collectively in student loan debt, and even before the start of the pandemic many borrowers were having trouble repaying their loans.
During his presidential campaign, President Biden declared that he would cancel $10,000 in student debt per person while also indicating that he would forgive all student loan debt from borrowers who attended public colleges and universities making up to $125,000 per year. According to Biden, this second plan would also have applied to those attending private Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
Since taking office, President Biden has yet to act on either promise and is now facing increased pressure to take some action on student loan debt. An online petition that now holds over one million signatures is calling for Biden to cancel all federal student loans and replace the current loan system with a less expensive model.
Biden has reportedly tasked Secretary Cardona with exploring the administration’s legal authority to forgive student loans and to cancel up to $50,000 in student loan debt.
The American Families Plan, one of the Biden administration’s two proposed tax and spending bills, includes a number of measures designed to increase access to education, including funding for free community college, investments into universal preschool, and enhanced Pell Grant awards.
Eli Fuhrman is a contributing writer for The National Interest.