Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

Student loan protest

Activists and artists call on President Biden to not resume student loan payments and to cancel student debt on December 15, 2021 in Washington, D,C. (Photo: Paul Morigi/Getty Images for We, The 45 Million)

Calls Mount to Cancel Student Debt as Biden Weighs Longer Payment Pause

"We need immediate student debt relief, and deferring payments again is a great step, but we need to do more," says Congresswoman Marie Newman.

Jessica Corbett

After a White House official confirmed this week that President Joe Biden is considering further extending a pandemic-related pause on student loan payments, lawmakers and activists renewed calls for debt cancellation.

"We have reached a student debt crisis of epic proportions."

While payments are due to resume on May 1, White House Chief of Staff Ronald Klain suggested on a popular podcast that the president may extend the pause and is still sorting out whether he will take further action on the student debt crisis.

"This is a GOOD idea!" the group Bold Progressives tweeted with a video of Klain on "Pod Save America."

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), a key advocate of student debt cancellation in Congress, agreed, also tweeting Klain's comments.

In response to HuffPost's reporting on Klain's remarks, Congresswoman Marie Newman (D-Ill.) said Saturday that "pausing student loan payments during Covid has allowed Americans to get by."

"We need immediate student debt relief, and deferring payments again is a great step, but we need to do more," she added.

Noting that "education is a pathway to greater opportunity and economic security, yet many Americans simply can't afford it or become crushed by student loans," Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) told Biden on Saturday that "we must cancel student debt."

Rep. Jesús "Chuy" García (D-Ill.) and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) also pressured the president to take action on the issue Saturday:

Pressley and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who have been leading the fight in Congress with Schumer, participated in a Friday roundtable about how student loan debt impacts Black communities, particularly business owners, entrepreneurs, and other professionals.

Advocates of debt cancellation often argue that it is necessary to help address the racial wealth gap in the United States.

Also on Friday, the Debt Collective announced a nationally coordinated refusal to make payments if Biden refuses to step in before they resume in May.

"If President Biden resumes illegitimate student debt payments in May, we will facilitate as many student debtors as possible to safely pay $0 a month to the Department of Education," declared Debt Collective co-founder Astra Taylor.

"Whether it's filing a borrower defense or enrolling in an income-driven repayment plan, we are politicizing our refusal to pay as part of our escalation on President Biden," Taylor said. "He has the authority to cancel all federal student debt with the flick of a pen. He can end this manufactured crisis today."

Debt Collective spokesperson Braxton Brewington emphasized that "we want to be clear—a student debt strike is not intentionally defaulting on your loans, but politicizing and collectivizing your refusal to pay by using the tools the Department of Education already provides to student borrowers."

"The Debt Collective's Student Debt Strike is an important campaign to help build the mass movement we need to resist and abolish student debt."

"The federal government doesn't need our student debt payments to function, and the last two years have proved that," Brewington added, "but they do need our cooperation—and they certainly won't have that."

Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) expressed support for the planned strike, noting that "the road to student debt cancellation is long and hard, and a key aspect is building solidarity amongst students and graduates with debt."

"The Debt Collective's Student Debt Strike is an important campaign to help build the mass movement we need to resist and abolish student debt, and there are so many ways to support it without putting yourself in financial jeopardy," she said. "I stand with Student Debt Strikers and encourage everyone—whether you have debt or not—to join us."

As Common Dreams reported last month, polling shows student debt cancellation is popular with the American public, even among people who don't have higher education loans to repay.

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.

Green Groups Urge California Gov. Newsom to Close Aging Nuclear Plant on Schedule

"Diablo Canyon is dangerous, dirty, and expensive," a coalition of environmental organizations said in a letter to California's Democratic governor. "It must retire as planned."

Brett Wilkins ·

'After Which Failed Pregnancy Should I Have Been Imprisoned?' Asks Rep. Lucy McBath

The congresswoman highlighted how right-wing attacks on abortion rights could also impact the healthcare available to patients who experience miscarriages and stillbirths.

Jessica Corbett ·

'A Slap in the Face to Voters': Kansas Supreme Court Upholds GOP Map

"This case is only one skirmish in the wholesale assault on democracy in Kansas and around the country," said the head of the state's ACLU.

Jessica Corbett ·

Ahead of House Vote, Analysis Details How Big Oil Price Gouging Rewards Wall Street

"Congress has a narrow window of opportunity to stop profiteering at the pump and secure a more stable, sustainable future for all. It's time to act—before it's too late."

Brett Wilkins ·

'Major Milestone' as Rhode Island Expands Voting Rights

A newly passed measure was praised as "a huge step forward in improving and modernizing voting in the Ocean State."

Andrea Germanos ·

Common Dreams Logo