Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks at a rally

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) speaks during an event outside Union Station on June 16, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

'He Needs to Step Up': Ocasio-Cortez Urges New Student Debt Relief From Biden

Advocates should "organize and prepare actions now," months before student loan payments are set to begin again.

Julia Conley

Hours after President Joe Biden called on Democrats to support a social spending package drastically scaled back from what progressives have pushed for, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez signaled that the party's left wing should continue pressuring the White House to deliver far-reaching initiatives that will benefit working people—namely, student debt relief.

"Now that his agenda is thinly sliced he needs to step up his executive action game and show his commitment to [delivering] for people."

The New York Democrat posted about the issue Thursday night on her Instagram account, saying advocates for debt relief—many of whom are among the 45 million student borrowers who owe a collective $1.73 trillion—must "bring the heat on Biden to cancel student loans."
"He doesn't need [Sen. Joe] Manchin's permission for that," said Ocasio-Cortez, referring to the corporate Democrat from West Virginia whose objections to investing in lower- and middle-class families contributed to the elimination of paid family leave, a clean power program, reforms to Medicare, and other provisions.
"Now that his agenda is thinly sliced he needs to step up his executive action game and show his commitment to [delivering] for people," she added.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez posted on her Instagram account about student loan debt.
Progressives in Congress have spent months calling on Biden to completely or partially cancel student loan debt, but as Common Dreams reported last week, the U.S. Department of Education is preparing to restart monthly payments in February 2022, after a moratorium that was extended by the president expires.
Legal experts have confirmed that the Biden administration has the authority under Section 432(a) of the Higher Education Act to cancel student debt. The law states that the education secretary has the authority to modify loan terms and "enforce, pay, compromise, waive, or release any right, title, claim, lien, or demand, however acquired, including any equity or any right of redemption."
The Education Department said in April that it was examining whether it could cancel student debt beyond the $11.5 billion it has already canceled for certain students, like those defrauded by for-profit institutions, and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) earlier this month demanded to know the status of the administration's investigation of the issue. This week, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said only that "conversations are continuing" regarding broad cancelation.
Three progressive Massachusetts Democrats—Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey and Rep. Ayanna Pressley—released a report Thursday showing that efforts to cancel student debt for public servants have resulted in "bureaucratic torture" for borrowers, with 98% of applicants to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program due to "major structural flaws."
"[President Biden] can and must cancel student debt to bring immediate relief," said Pressley on Friday.
A major overhaul to the PSLF program that's planned by the administration "will be a huge help to public servants," said Warren, adding, "to really fix this broken system, [President Biden] should cancel student debt."
Ocasio-Cortez urged advocates to "organize and prepare actions now," months ahead of the end of the student loan repayment moratorium.
"The showdown will be in late January when payments are 'supposed' to kick back up," said the congresswoman.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Scientists Revive ‘Zombie’ Virus After 50,000 Years Trapped in Siberian Permafrost

Researchers documented 13 never-before-seen viruses that have been lying dormant, frozen in thick ice, over tens of thousands of years.

Common Dreams staff ·

'Cleaner Air Is Coming' as London Expands Vehicle Pollution Fee to Entire Metro Area

"Around 4,000 Londoners die prematurely each year because of long-term exposure to air pollution, with the greatest number of deaths in outer London boroughs," noted Mayor Sadiq Khan in announcing the expansion.

Brett Wilkins ·

'Amazing News': Historic Shark Protections Approved at Global Wildlife Convention

Up to 90% of sharks targeted by the lucrative fin trade will now be protected, said one advocate.

Julia Conley ·

'The Nightmare Materializes': Far-Right Extremist Itamar Ben-Gvir to Be Israel's National Security Minister

The Foreign Affairs Ministry of the Palestinian Authority said Ben-Gvir's elevation to national security minister could have a "catastrophic impact on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

Jake Johnson ·

Raging Wars, Soaring Hunger Put Women and Girls in Crosshairs, Warns UN

"A toxic mix of crises—conflicts, climate, skyrocketing costs, and the ripple effects of the Ukraine war—are inflicting a devastating toll on the forcibly displaced. This is being felt across the world, but women and girls are particularly suffering."

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo