Bernie Sanders at a 'Cancel Student Debt' rally

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) joins student debtors to call on President Joe Biden to cancel student debt at an early morning action outside the White House on April 27, 2022 in Washington, D.C.

(Photo: Paul Morigi/Getty Images for We The 45 Million)

Sanders Leads Senate Dems in Push to Strengthen Student Loan Debt Relief

"We must act boldly so that the millions of Americans who are struggling to pay for basic necessities are not crushed by mountains of debt for getting a college education," said the Vermont senator.

Applauding the Biden administration for its proposal of "historic" methods of canceling student debt for millions of Americans after President Joe Biden's original plan was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court last year, Sen. Bernie Sanders on Tuesday led members of the Democratic caucus in submitting a public comment with suggestions for strengthening the new proposal.

"We support the department's efforts to provide significant pathways to relief for student loan borrowers. These efforts are critical, especially in the wake of the Supreme Court's extreme, overreaching decision to strike down the Biden administration's original student debt relief plan," wrote the senators, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.).

The administration's plan—which would entirely wipe out the student loan debt held by 4 million people, provide at least $5,000 in debt relief to 10 million borrowers, and eliminate the interest of 23 million more—the letter states, "would undoubtedly eliminate the crushing student debt burden for borrowers who have long been waiting for needed relief."

But with 43 million people in the U.S. owing a collective $1.6 trillion in federal student loans—an amount that has prevented many from purchasing homes, starting businesses, and having families—the senators said the government must "act boldly so that the tens of millions of Americans who are struggling to pay the rent, put food on the table, and pay for the basic necessities of life are not crushed by a mountain of debt for getting a college education."

The lawmakers proposed:

  • Eliminating all of the excess interest that has accrued over what a person originally borrowed, regardless of the repayment plan they are on or what their income is;
  • Discharging debt for borrowers who have been in repayment for over two decades on a rolling basis, so no borrower has to delay or forego retirement because of their student loan debt;
  • Providing relief to borrowers who have been victims of servicing errors or misconduct; and
  • Providing debt relief to every eligible borrower automatically.
Eliminating excess interest would "help millions of borrowers get off the never-ending treadmill of student loan repayment and help them make progress toward eliminating their debt," said the senators. "Student loan debt should never be a life sentence."

Sanders (I-Vt.) and his colleagues also recommended full debt cancellation for borrowers who have repaid enough debt to cover their original principal, regardless of their income.

The lawmakers urged the Department of Education to promptly release its proposed final rule for debt relief for people experiencing economic hardship, which could "provide needed relief to borrowers not otherwise captured in this proposal."

"Every day spent without relief is another day borrowers experiencing economic hardship face unnecessary financial burdens," reads the letter.

The Biden administration has said it plans to finalize its student debt proposal by this coming fall, when Americans will vote in the general election. Former President Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, has opposed student debt cancellation.

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