Biden Reportedly Open to Canceling Student Debt

While President Joe Biden has twice extended the pause on student loan payments, he has been unwilling to publicly declare whether he will cancel debt unilaterally.

Updated May 5, 2022

Biden Reportedly Open to Canceling Student Debt
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  • Biden discussed debt cancellation during a closed-door meeting on Monday.
  • Lawmakers present told news outlets the president seemed open to widespread relief.
  • It is still unclear when this relief may come and how much debt he will discharge.

After extending a pause on federal student loan payments earlier this month, President Joe Biden appears ready to cancel some federal student loan debt before November’s midterm elections.

At the beginning of April, Biden said millions of Americans would face "significant economic hardship" were federal student loan payments to resume in May. With payments now set to resume Sept. 1, the president is telling Congressional Democrats that he is not only considering another extension, but also options to forgive significant amounts of student debt, according to reports from CBS News and the Washington Post.

The U.S. currently holds over $1.6 trillion in federal student loan debt spread across 43.4 million borrowers, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Advocates have been pining for unilateral debt forgiveness for years, and Biden campaigned on the promise to cancel up to $10,000 per person. More progressive politicians continually urge him to increase that figure to $50,000 per person.

Monday's closed-door meeting with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus is the first time the president has spoken directly about the issue since taking office. Lawmakers present reportedly said Biden seemed open to potentially forgive more than the $10,000 he promised.

Rep. Tony Cardenas, a Democrat representing California, told CBS News that when he brought up the $10,000 figure, Biden smiled and said, "You're going to like what I do on that, I'm looking to do something on that and I think you're going to like what I do."

Cardenas added that Biden never provided a specific amount he'd be willing to forgive during the meeting. The president also did not state whether he plans to enact cancellation through executive action or other means.

Rep. Darren Soto, a Florida Democrat, told the Washington Post that the president suggested he would take executive action soon.

Advocates anticipate action will come before the 2022 midterm elections, which take place on Nov. 8.

Rise and Data for Progress conducted a survey of just over 2,000 likely voters in battleground states in March. The survey found that 45% of respondents said they would be "somewhat or much more likely" to vote if Biden canceled $10,000 in student debt.

Biden has thus far enacted targeted federal student loan forgiveness. His Department of Education has approved about $2 billion in debt cancellation through borrower defense claims. These moves have helped more than 107,000 borrowers, according to the department.