Under pressure to cancel student debt, a top federal aid official points to Biden: 'It is a decision for the White House to make'




  • In Politics
  • 2021-12-01 15:49:02Z
  • By Business Insider
FSA head Richard Cordray
FSA head Richard Cordray  
  • Richard Cordray, head of Federal Student Aid, said cancelling student debt broadly is not his job.

  • "It is a decision for the White House to make," he said, noting his involvement in the Feb. 1 payment restart.

  • Biden has yet to announce whether he will cancel student debt for every federal borrower.

There's no question that President Joe Biden's administration officials tasked with overseeing the student-loan portfolio get their fair share of questions about debt forgiveness.

But one of those officials made clear that people can stop sending those questions his way because canceling student debt is simply not his job.

On Tuesday, Federal Student Aid (FSA) director Richard Cordray spoke at a conference for college financial aid administrators on how they can best help student-loan borrowers across the country. One of the topics brought up was student-loan forgiveness - something on the top of many borrowers minds, especially now, given that payments are resuming in February after what will be a nearly two-year pause during the pandemic.

Cordray made clear, though, that while he is "deeply involved" in the transition back to repayment and facilitating targeted loan forgiveness programs, broad student-debt cancellation for every borrower is not in his job description.

"On general loan forgiveness, many people seem to have a great deal to say, but as the chief of FSA, I do not," Cordray said. "Instead, I will simply say it is a decision for the White House to make, not for me. And, whatever they decide, FSA will faithfully implement."

He added that he continues to oversee student-debt cancellation for targeted groups of borrowers, like those defrauded by for-profit schools and borrowers with disabilities, along with overseeing the Education Department's recent overhaul of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, which forgives student debt for public servants, like teachers, after ten years of qualifying payments.

With regards to the return to repayment on February 1, Cordray said that FSA's role will take the form of a "communications campaign" to ensure borrowers have all the information they need to resume paying off their debt.

"We recognize that the stakes are extremely high as we face this challenge," Cordray said.

Cordray's role in the FSA may be short-lived. The Wall Street Journal first reported on Tuesday that he is being considered to serve as the Federal Reserve's top banking regulator, but the White House has yet to make a final decision and Cordray has not commented on the news.

Biden has yet to say if he will cancel student debt broadly

As Cordray made clear, cancelling student debt is Biden's decision, and 43 million federal student-loan borrowers continue to anxiously await what the president will decide.

During his campaign, Biden said he would approve a $10,000 student-debt cancellation. When it comes to cancelling a higher amount, like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren's proposal of $50,000 per borrower, Biden wasn't sure if he had that legal authority, so he called on the Education and Justice Departments early in his presidency to prepare memos on his ability to cancel student debt broadly via executive action.

However, while his administration continues to say they are still examining that authority, documents released last month revealed the Education Department gave Biden the memo in April, and it may have existed as early as February.

Many progressive lawmakers are fed up and want Biden to give needed relief to millions of borrowers before payments pick back up in two months.

"Millions of borrowers across the country are desperately asking for student debt relief," Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar previously told Insider. "We know the President can do it with the stroke of a pen."

"Release the memo," she added. "Cancel student debt."

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