The Hill, March 2022
President Biden has renewed the pandemic-related pause on student loan payments three times during his presidency, as calls to issue blanket loan forgiveness grow louder. If it is determined the president has the authority to forgive some student loan debt, it is unclear how the government will pay for it and what could immediately happen to the economy. Biden said on the campaign trail and early in his presidency he was open to eliminating at least $10,000 in student debt per borrower. Since then, prominent lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), have been urging the president to act on and take his campaign promise further by canceling up to $50,000 of student debt per borrower.
The administration is unsure whether Biden holds the legal authority to issue blanket student debt forgiveness and previously asked the Education Department to review whether the president can cancel payments. Advocates argue that today’s payment freezes have set the legal basis to forgive loans with an executive order.
An estimated 43 million people hold student loans, collectively totaling around 1.6 trillion, with the average borrower owing around $36,000. Lawmakers and debt advocates suggest loan forgiveness would immediately boost the economic outlook for millions, offering a path toward financial security—especially for historically marginalized groups. But experts say that the money freed from debt won’t immediately influence the economy and they question from a policy standpoint where the money to pay for student debt forgiveness might come from.