President Joe Biden plans to make his long-awaited announcement on student debt relief Wednesday, according to people familiar with the timing.
Biden has, for several months, been weighing forgiving $10,000 per borrower in student debt and capping the cancellation for borrowers whose income exceeds $125,000 to $150,000 a year.
The substance of Wednesday’s announcement is not yet clear and is being closely guarded by the White House, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The president’s decision has been long anticipated as he grapples with delivering targeted relief while weighing any political or economic fallout, including on already-rampant inflation.
Advocates and allies expect Biden to extend the pause on student loan repayment for at least four additional months through December 2022, while also announcing some measure of debt forgiveness for borrowers whose income falls below a certain threshold.
That would take the repayment freeze beyond the November midterm elections, in which Democrats are hoping to stave off a loss of their slim House and Senate majorities. Support from young voters could help boost Democrats’ showing in the upcoming balloting.
Still, the loan announcement has the potential to be polarizing — one official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Biden will face blow-back no matter what he does.
For months, Democratic lawmakers, labor leaders and civil-rights groups have been pressuring the White House to forgive more than $10,000 in student debt, arguing higher debt loads are disproportionately carried by Black or lower-income students.
Former top Democratic officials, meanwhile, have warned about the inflationary impact of a broader move. Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers has cautioned that it would fuel price growth and said the “worst idea” would be to extend a pause on payments. Inflation is Biden’s foremost political headwind and he’s been clamoring to try and ease price pressures while the Federal Reserve moves to sharply hike rates, raising the risk of a recession.
Student loan forgiveness would cap a series of major policy accomplishments for Biden heading into midterms: He’s signed a tax, health care and climate package dubbed the Inflation Reduction Act as well as a semiconductor subsidy bill aimed at boosting US manufacturing.
Forgiving student loan debt will cost between $300 billion and $980 billion over 10 years, depending on the scope, with the majority of relief going toward borrowers in the top 60% of earners, an analysis released Tuesday found.
The Biden administration has already cancelled $32 billion in total debt, including by targeting relief to institutions that had predatory or misleading practices. The current payment pause expires at the end of the month.
“From day one, we’ve been really focused on making sure we’re protecting our students and our borrowers,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “We know August 31st is a date that many people are waiting to hear something from. We’ve been talking daily about this. And I can tell you that American people will hear within the next week or so from the president.”
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