- President Joe Biden extended a pause on student loan payments for another 90 days.
- Democrats praised the move but urged the president to take further action and cancel the debt.
- Biden signaled that he wants borrowers to repay their student loans.
President Joe Biden on Wednesday extended a pause on student loan payments that was set to expire on February 1, a decision praised by Democratic lawmakers who pressured him to make the move as the coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt American lives.
But at the same time, Biden signaled that he wants borrowers to resume paying off their loans once the new moratorium ends on May 1, placing him at odds with Democrats who have demanded that debt be wiped out.
“[We] know that millions of student loan borrowers are still coping with the impacts of the pandemic and need some more time before resuming payments,” Biden said in a statement. “Given these considerations, today my Administration is extending the pause on federal student loan repayments for an additional 90 days — through May 1, 2022 — as we manage the ongoing pandemic and further strengthen our economic recovery.”
“Meanwhile, the Department of Education will continue working with borrowers to ensure they have the support they need to transition smoothly back into repayment and advance economic stability for their own households and for our nation,” the president continued. “As we are taking this action, I’m asking all student loan borrowers to do their part as well: take full advantage of the Department of Education’s resources to help you prepare for payments to resume; look at options to lower your payments through income-based repayment plans; explore public service loan forgiveness; and make sure you are vaccinated and boosted when eligible.”
Biden’s comments put him on a collision course with progressive lawmakers vowing to increase pressure on the administration to cancel student-loan debt for millions of borrowers. Americans owe an estimated $1.7 trillion in student loans, a record-breaking total, according to
“Thank you! Next step: cancellation,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York tweeted along with a video of Biden’s announcement.
“I applaud President Biden for once again pausing federal student loan payments for 45 million Americans. Now let’s cancel it. All of it,” Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont tweeted.
“This is what happens when we all come together to raise our voices. Extending the student loan payment pause is a HUGE step forward that will help people get through this pandemic. Now let’s keep pushing until @POTUS cancels student loan debt,” Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri tweeted.
Three Democrats leading the student-loan debt cancelation push — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Ayanna Pressley — also welcomed the extension but urged Biden to take further action.
“We’re pleased the Biden administration has heeded our call to extend the pause on student loan payments,” the lawmakers said in a joint statement. “We continue to call on President Biden to take executive action to cancel $50,000 in student debt, which will help close the racial wealth gap for borrowers and accelerate our economic recovery.”
Since Biden was sworn in as president, a slew of Democrats have repeatedly insisted that he holds the power to cancel student loan debt through executive action. But Biden has expressed skepticism about his authority to act alone. In April, he instructed the Department of Education to prepare a memo on whether he can cancel student loan debt on his own. Recently released documents showed that Biden received that memo as early as April but has yet to release its contents.
Biden has also resisted the $50,000 mark suggested by Democrats, instead pledging on the campaign trail and during his time in office to cancel $10,000 in student loan debt for every borrower. Yet the president’s statement on Wednesday failed to address that policy promise, prompting several Democrats on Wednesday to remind him of it.
“As Omicron rages across the country, the Biden administration has made the excellent and necessary decision to use their executive power to extend the pause on federal student loans. This will allow millions of borrowers to breathe a momentary sigh of relief,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said in a statement.
“But the work cannot stop here. The administration must now deliver on the President’s promise to cancel student debt, lowering costs for families at a critical time of tremendous health and economic uncertainty,” she added. “We cannot afford more delays — now is the time for the President to act.”
—Jamaal Bowman (@JamaalBowmanNY) December 22, 2021
—Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) December 22, 2021
—Pramila Jayapal (@PramilaJayapal) December 22, 2021