Biden Confirms He’s Considering Student Debt Cancellation

The amount of federal student debt he’s considering canceling is less than the $50,000 per borrower called for by top Senate Democrats.
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Matthew Arrojas is a news reporter at BestColleges covering higher education issues and policy. He previously worked as the hospitality and tourism news reporter at the South Florida Business Journal. He also covered higher education policy issues as...
Updated on September 29, 2023
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  • This is the first time Biden has spoken directly about wide-scale federal student debt cancellation.
  • With midterm elections approaching, Biden is facing political pressure on the issue.
  • Federal student loan borrowers have not needed to make payments on their loans since March 2020.

President Joe Biden confirmed Thursday that he’s "taking a hard look" at canceling some federal student debt.

"I am considering dealing with some debt reduction," Biden said during a press conference announcing his request to Congress for a new Ukraine aid package. "I am not considering $50,000 debt reduction. But I'm in the process of taking a hard look at whether or not there will be additional debt forgiveness."

Biden said he’d make a decision on the federal student debt cancellation in a matter of weeks.

Biden campaigned on the promise to cancel up to $10,000 per person, but this is the first time he has spoken directly about wide-scale federal student debt cancellation since taking office. The remarks in response to a reporter’s question come three days after reports surfaced that he told the Congressional Hispanic Caucus he is considering canceling some federal student debt.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Thursday that Biden is considering means testing as a method to determine how much federal student debt is forgiven per person. She added that the president doesn’t think that millionaires and billionaires should benefit from widespread forgiveness.

With midterm elections fast approaching, Biden is facing political pressure from his left and right on the issue of federal student loans.

Top Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, have repeatedly called for the president to cancel $50,000 in federal student loan debt.

Senate Republicans, meanwhile, are targeting the president’s authority over federal student loan debt through a proposed bill that would immediately end the two-year student loan payment pause.

Federal student loan borrowers have not needed to make payments on their loans since March 2020 when Congress passed the CARES Act in response to the economic turmoil caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, both Presidents Donald Trump and Biden tacked on extensions; Biden most recently extended the pause through the end of August. It was previously set to expire at the start of May.

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.

Biden has thus far in his presidency favored 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.