Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

There are less than 72 hours left in this Mid-Year Campaign and our independent journalism needs your help today.
If you value our work, please support Common Dreams. This is our hour of need.

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley

Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) partipate in a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on February 27, 2019. (Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

'We Can Do Better' Than Biden's Paltry Student Debt Relief Plan, Says AOC

The president's approach, said the New York Democrat, is "just enough to anger the people against it *and* the people who need forgiveness the most."

Julia Conley

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Friday joined economic justice advocates in rebuking President Joe Biden's reported plan to cancel just $10,000 in federal student loan debt for a means-tested selection of borrowers, warning the proposal is too little for those who need it most while excluding many desperate for relief.

"$10,000 [of] means-tested forgiveness is just enough to anger the people against it and the people who need forgiveness the most," the New York Democrat said. "We can do better."

Ocasio-Cortez responded to reports about the plan, which would offer relief to individuals who earned less than $150,000 in the previous year, as advocates held a rapid response protest outside the White House to demand the Biden administration provide more ambitious relief.

The congresswoman was among the critics who noted that many student borrowers are paying off thousands of dollars in interest, which "will undo that $10,000 fast."

"$10,000 student debt relief just isn't enough," said Lauren Miller, communications director for the Harvard Institute of Politics. "Especially if it's not paired with a huge reduction on interest rates, banning federal aid from going to for-profit colleges, a massive increase in Pell Grants, and free public college."

After the rapid response protests were announced Friday morning, the Student Borrower Protection Center announced that an "historic coalition" of 529 labor and civil rights groups called on President Joe Biden to cancel at least $50,000 of student debt per borrower, as Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) have proposed.

The groups include national labor unions such as the UAW and the SEIU as well as the NAACP.

The support for broad relief from labor unions counters claims from corporate Democrats, Republicans, and White House officials that large-scale student loan relief would unfairly benefit the wealthy, said one critic.

As Max Moran and Hannah Story Brown of the Revolving Door Project wrote in a Common Dreams op-ed Friday, the administration's insistence on an "artificially limited" plan capping relief at $10,000 will "come down hardest on the most vulnerable."

"For 83% of Black borrowers, canceling only $10,000 of debt would still leave them with a balance higher than their original amount," Moran and Brown wrote, because over the last two decades, the median student debt balance for these borrowers quadrupled from $7,000 to $30,000.

"What should be a slam-dunk opportunity to energize voters young and old, and especially voters of color, may instead become a bureaucratic mess that offers too little relief for too much complexity—which is exactly what student debt profiteers want from a loan forgiveness policy, if we are to have one at all," they added.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) said Biden's reported plan does not go "as far and as deep as the hurt is" as she called for more "bold" and "meaningful" reforms.

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

Just a few days left in our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

Markey, Bowman Join Climate Coalition in Urging SCOTUS Expansion

"We cannot sit idly by," said Markey, "as extremists on the Supreme Court eviscerate the authorities that the government has had for decades to combat climate change and reduce pollution."

Brett Wilkins ·

Ocasio-Cortez Says US 'Witnessing a Judicial Coup in Process'

"It is our duty to check the Court's gross overreach of power in violating people's inalienable rights and seizing for itself the powers of Congress and the president."

Brett Wilkins ·

Critics Say Biden Drilling Bonanza 'Won't Lower Gas Prices' But 'Will Worsen Climate Crisis'

"President Biden's massive public lands giveaway in the face of utter climate catastrophe is just the latest sign that his climate commitments are mere rhetoric," said one campaigner.

Kenny Stancil ·

Grave Warnings as Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Case That Threatens 'Future of Voting Rights'

"Buckle up," implores one prominent legal scholar. "An extreme decision here could fundamentally alter the balance of power in setting election rules in the states and provide a path for great threats to elections."

Brett Wilkins ·

Biden Urged to Take Emergency Action After 'Disastrous' Climate Ruling by Supreme Court

"The catastrophic impact of this decision cannot be understated," said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, but "we cannot accept defeat."

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo