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The Debt Collective

The activist coalition Debt Collective led an April 4, 2022 Washington, D.C. demonstration calling on President Joe Biden to cancel student loan debt. (Photo: The Debt Collective/Twitter)

'Next Step: Cancel It,' Biden Urged After Extending Student Loan Repayment Pause

"Now is the time to finish the job and cancel student debt," implored the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Brett Wilkins

Progressives on Wednesday welcomed the Biden administration's decision to extend the moratorium on educational loan repayments through the end of August, while urging President Joe Biden to use his executive power to cancel all student debt.

"Good move. Now cancel it all."

Just before Biden's move, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) had a simple message for the president: "Cancel student debt. All of it."

The progressive advocacy group RootsAction tweeted: "Good move. Now cancel it all."

In a Wednesday morning White House announcement, Biden said: "I know folks were hit hard by this pandemic. And although we've come a long way in the last year, we're still recovering from the economic crisis it caused."

"This continued pause will help Americans breathe a little easier as we recover and rebuild from the pandemic," the president added.

The repayment pause—which was first implemented by then-President Donald Trump at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequently extended five times—was set to expire on May 1.

According to a March 31 letter by more than 100 congressional Democrats who urged Biden to extend the pause through at least the end of the year, the respite saved borrowers an average of $393 per month. The Education Data Initiative says the average monthly student loan payment in the U.S. is around $460.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York recently estimated the pause has saved borrowers a combined $195 billion. According to the U.S. Department of Education, more than 43 million student loan borrowers owe a collective $1.6 trillion. A 2020 NerdWallet household survey found average debt loads ranging from around $29,000 for bachelor's degree students to over $290,000 for dental school attendees.

Eight congressional Democrats—Sens. Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Alex Padilla (Calif.), and Raphael Warnock (Ga.) along with Reps. Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Pramila Jayapal (Wash.), and James Clyburn (S.C.)—issued a joint statement commending the administration, but calling for more action.

Last week, we led nearly 100 members of Congress in urging the president to extend the pause on student loan payments. Today, President Biden heeded our calls and delivered critical relief to millions of Americans. Since the start of the Biden-Harris administration, no American has had to pay a dime on their federally held student debt, and more than 700,000 borrowers have had over $16 billion in student debt canceled.

While the extension is welcome, a looming restart of student loan payments in September underscores the importance of swift executive action on meaningful student debt cancellation. We continue to implore the president to use his clear legal authority to cancel student debt, which will help narrow the racial wealth gap, boost our economic recovery, and demonstrate that this government is fighting for the people.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus—which Jayapal chairs—applauded Biden "for heeding the calls from our members and millions around the country to extend this pause."

"With costs rising, the last thing working people need right now is another costly monthly payment," the caucus tweeted. "Now is the time to finish the job and cancel student debt."

Advocacy groups and campaigners also praised the president, while urging him to cancel student debt.

The nonprofit Student Debt Crisis Center tweeted: "Americans have been facing a student debt crisis for decades and shouldering the impacts of the pandemic for years—extending relief until August isn't enough. We need to #cancelstudentdebt."

Lisa Gilbert, executive vice president of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, said in a statement: "Thank you, President Biden, for responding to the needs of 45 million borrowers who are not ready to resume payments. Next Biden should cancel up to $50,000 of student debt for all people because it will benefit the economy and begin the hard work of closing the racial wealth gap."

"There is no single action that this president can take that would have more transformational implications for millions of people in this country," added Gilbert. "But for now, we are pleased that everyday people and their families will get a little breathing room to pay for basic necessities."

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