Biden's campaign made 2 promises on canceling student debt. He hasn't done either.




Joe Biden
Joe Biden  
  • Biden made campaign promises to cancel $10,000 in student debt per person and forgive debt for students from HBCUs and public colleges.

  • As president, he has not yet followed through on either promise.

  • The DOE has already canceled debt for defrauded borrowers and borrowers with disabilities.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

So far, President Joe Biden's Department of Education has acted to address the $1.7 trillion student debt crisis in the country by, among other things, canceling debt for some borrowers defrauded by for-profit schools and for borrowers with disabilities.

On his first day in office, Biden's first action addressing student debt was to extend the pause on federal student loan payments through September. Since then, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona has taken three distinct steps to confront student debt: he canceled debt for about 72,000 borrowers defrauded by for-profit schools, he canceled debt for over 41,000 borrowers with disabilities, and most recently, he expanded the scope of the payment pause to 1.14 million borrowers with private loans.

But as president, Biden has yet to follow through on two campaign promises he made to voters on cancelling student debt. The more than 81 million people who voted for him also voted for two promised actions on student-debt relief that haven't been enacted yet, if they ever will be.

Regarding further actions Biden might take on student debt cancelation, a DOE spokesperson told Insider that the department "is working in partnership with colleagues at the Department of Justice and the White House to review options with respect to debt cancellation."

Here's what Biden said on the campaign trail about how he'd tackle the student-debt crisis:

Cancel $10,000 in student debt per person

During his campaign, Biden promised to immediately cancel $10,000 in student debt per person. In a speech on November 16, Biden said that student loans are holding borrowers up, and forgiving $10,000 in student debt "should be done immediately."

Biden's campaign website said the president would work with Democrats to "authorize up to $10,000 in student debt relief per borrower" as part of COVID-19 relief, but the $1.9 trillion stimulus package he signed in March didn't include that. He also said he would support legislation brought to him to cancel $10,000 in student debt, but Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said in a press call last month that doing so is lengthy and expensive, and while she has legislation to do it, there's no reason Biden can't use executive action to provide the immediate relief he had promised.

Warren campaigned on a larger number, advocating the cancelation of $50,000 of debt per person, and she and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have been urging Biden to act on that. At a CNN town hall in February, Biden said he doesn't have the executive authority to cancel up to $50,000 in student debt per person, but said he is prepared to cancel $10,000.

"My point is: I understand the impact of debt, and it can be debilitating," Biden said at the town hall. "I am prepared to write off the $10,000 debt but not $50 [thousand], because I don't think I have the authority to do it."

Biden has since asked the Justice Department and the Education Department to review his authority to use executive action to cancel student debt, indicating he may act on this promise. He may go even further, as White House Press Secretary said in early April that the $50,000 cancelation figure hasn't been ruled out. But nearly three months into his presidency, he hasn't acted on this yet.

Cancel debt for undergraduates from public colleges and HBCUs

Another plan Biden had to address student debt during his campaign was to forgive all undergraduate tuition-related federal student loan debt for borrowers from public colleges and universities earning up to $125,000 per year, and it would also apply to private Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and minority-serving institutions.

Forgiving debt for borrowers who attended HBCUs would help address the racial wealth gap in the student debt crisis. Insider previously reported that 86.6% of Black students take out federal student loans, compared to just 59.9% of white students.

This plan was modeled after Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington's College for All Act, introduced in 2017, which would make public colleges and universities tuition-free and reduces student debt.

"If we are to succeed in a highly competitive global economy and have the best-educated workforce in the world, public colleges and universities must become tuition-free for working families and we must substantially reduce student debt," Sanders said in a statement.

The Education Department has not yet released any information on this plan.

The department did not provide Insider with a timeline for when further cancellation measures will occur.

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