The $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package recently signed into law by President Joe Biden should make student loan forgiveness easier. That goes for both existing avenues of debt forgiveness and the $50,000 some Senate Democrats are pushing Biden to wipe away with the stroke of a pen.
“This is kind of clearing up some issues for existing student loan forgiveness as well as paving the way for anything on the horizon,” said Erin Klarer, vice president of government relations at the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority.
One provision of the American Rescue Plan makes student loan forgiveness a nontaxable event through 2025, potentially clearing the way for broader relief in the future.
Some of Biden’s Democratic allies, chief among them Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, have urged the president to forgive up to $50,000 in debt per borrower, pointing to precedents set by former Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump. The U.S. Department of Education, an agency that falls under Biden’s purview as president, holds more than 90% of the country’s roughly $1.5 trillion in outstanding student loan debt.
That said, Biden has opposed canceling up to $50,000 per borrower, contending the government should not extend debt forgiveness to students who went to elite, private colleges. That description, however, doesn’t accurately describe the majority of borrowers, especially those in Kentucky.
“Most people who borrow, especially in our state, it’s not really large amounts. It’s not the case that it’s just students at elite colleges,” Ashley Spalding, the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy’s research director, recently told the Daily News.
Looking at Kentucky’s student loan situation, a substantial share of Kentuckians who owe student loans have low incomes, Spalding said.
“We know they’re often attending community colleges and public universities in our state, and many people who owe on student loans were not able to complete their degree, and often, financial constraints are a reason for that,” she said.
Instead, Biden has advocated up to $10,000 in debt forgiveness per borrower, albeit through congressional legislation and not an executive order.
Doing so would wipe out debt for nearly 15 million borrowers who owe less than $10,000. However, most student loan borrowers (about 67%) owe more than that, according to the personal finance website NerdWallet.
Biden has also proposed a rework of the “broken” Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, promising to create a more streamlined and straightforward alternative that will offer $10,000 of undergraduate or graduate student debt relief for each year of eligible service, up to five years.
“Individuals working in schools, government and other nonprofit settings will be automatically enrolled in this forgiveness program; up to five years of prior national or community service will also qualify,” Biden’s official website reads.
“I do feel like they will reach some sort of student loan forgiveness compromise,” Klarer said.