Student loan debt remains a major issue for many Americans. It is estimated that Americans collectively hold $1.7 trillion in student loan debt, and many people were struggling to meet their loan repayment obligations even before the pandemic hit.
In order to take some of the pressure off of those people who are saddled with heavy student loan burdens during the pandemic, the government has on three separate occasions decided to implement or extend a freeze on student loan repayments. The most recent extension came in the form of an executive order signed by President Biden shortly after he took office that saw the freeze extended through September 2021. It remains to be seen whether or not the Biden administration will choose to once again extend the freeze on loan repayments.
But a possible fourth extension of the freeze on loan repayments is not the only issue up for debate regarding the student loan debt issue. While on the campaign trail, Biden declared that he would cancel $10,000 in student loan debt per person, and that he would forgive all student loans used for undergraduate tuition taken by attendees of public colleges and universities making up to $125,000 per year and for all those who attended private Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
As President, Biden has taken some action on student loan debt including canceling debt for borrowers who were de-frauded by for-profit schools and for borrowers with disabilities, but he has not yet followed through on the promises that he made while on the campaign trail. A number of Democratic lawmakers have called for student loan forgiveness of up to $50,000, but President Biden has indicated that he may not support such a move, though Biden has reportedly tasked Education Secretary Miguel Cardona with exploring the administration’s legal authority to forgive federal student loans.
One of the major points of contention within the broader debate about student loan forgiveness is that of student loan regressivity; that is, that student loan forgiveness of $50,000 would disproportionally benefit higher-income households.
A new report by the Roosevelt Institute, however, has called into question the idea of student loan regressivity, arguing instead that loan forgiveness would see those people in middle income brackets benefiting more than those in the top ten percent of earners. The report finds that far from being regressive student loan forgiveness would in fact prove to be progressive, and would “provide more benefits to those with fewer economic resources and could play a critical role in addressing the racial wealth gap and building the Black middle class”. According to the authors of the report, this is because people from high-income households tend not to need to use student loans to pay for their education.
Eli Fuhrman is a contributing writer for The National Interest.