While running for president in 2020, Joseph Biden endorsed the notion of student loan forgiveness. He didn’t propose full forgiveness of all student loans, but rather some smaller proposals: To forgive up to $10,000 per borrower, to forgive student-related student loan debt, and to restore bankruptcy discharge of student loans, according to SavingForCollege.com.
However, about six months into his term, Biden has not yet fulfilled that particular campaign promise.
Forbes this week looked at what happened to Biden’s plan for student loan forgiveness.
First of all, Senators, including Chuck Schumer of New York and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, have pushed for Biden to unilaterally cancel the debt, under the Higher Education Act of 1965. Biden has not done so, although his campaign promise was to pass the debt cancellation through Congress, and not through executive action. Biden did announce that he was asking the Department of Education to conduct a legal review into the question of whether the administration could unilaterally cancel student debt.
There has been no announcement about the outcome of that legal review, and as the Forbes author noted, Biden has been mostly silent about the debt cancellation question in recent months.
Much like the idea of additional stimulus checks, Biden did not mention the student debt issue in his joint address to Congress this spring, nor was the idea mentioned in the proposals that are part of the American Jobs Plan or American Families Plan. It was also not included in the president’s recent budget proposal.
None of this means that student loan forgiveness, in some form, definitely isn’t going to happen. But just as with the question of another round of stimulus checks, the Biden Administration is showing every indication that it does not view that issue as a priority, with the legislative or executive agendas in its first year.
Meanwhile, per The Washington Post, the Biden Administration’s Justice Department has continued to defend lawsuits left over form the Trump era, including a case involving students claiming that they were defrauded by for-profit colleges, and seeking debt forgiveness. While this is a separate issue from widespread loan forgiveness, it represents another case in which seeking forgiveness are looking for answers.
“When Biden was elected, I was like 'Yes, here is someone who has heard about our fight, who heard about our struggles. He’ll take care of this,” said Kulka, 33, who owes $10,000 in federal student loans for a certificate in medical administration. “But we’re still here. I want to be optimistic, but I’ve been waiting for so long.”
“While the legal memo has not been finalized, there’s still a chance the Education Department finds a legal avenue for the president to enact wide-scale student loan cancellation,” Forbes said. "Legally, it’s an uphill battle for the president to cancel student loans, but never say never.”
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.