Biden, Ignoring Supreme Court, Forges Ahead With New Plans To Reduce Student Debt as Payments Pause Comes to an End
The Biden administration is increasingly treating a university education as an entitlement like Social Security or Medicare, saddling future taxpayers with hundreds of billions of dollars in liabilities in the process.
As part of its ongoing efforts to blunt the impact of a Supreme Court decision that didn’t go its way, the Biden administration Tuesday began a major promotional push to get student loan borrowers to switch to a new program that promises lower monthly payments and caps on interest accrual over the life of the loans.
The move, coming just weeks before payments on student loans for tens of millions of borrowers are set to resume following a pandemic-related pause, aims to push borrowers into a new income-based payment scheme that determines monthly payment amounts based on borrowers’ income instead of the outstanding balance. The program has been dubbed the Save plan by the White House and was initiated without the approval of Congress.
“President Biden believes that college should be a ticket to the middle class, not a burden that weighs down on families for decades,” the White House domestic policy advisor, Neera Tanden, told reporters on a call Monday. “President Biden believes this is flat out wrong that so many families are struggling with these costs. That’s why, at his direction, this administration is using every tool at our disposal to get student loan borrowers the help and the relief they need to reach their dreams.”
Applications for the program will open immediately via a Department of Education website and early adopters should see a drop in their monthly payments before they resume in October. Payments and interest accrual on student loans have been suspended since March 2020 at a cost to taxpayers estimated to be as much as $5 billion a month, or more than $200 billion in total.
Despite the lengthy deferral, there are indications that some student loan borrowers — who are estimated to have more than $1.5 trillion in outstanding loans — are not terribly keen on resuming payments on their obligations. A nascent “student debt strike” movement has taken hold on social media platforms like TikTok, with users citing everything from Bible verses to excessive hardship as excuses for not ponying up.
A survey released last week by Intelligent.com, a higher education planning website, suggests that 62 percent of the 1,000 student loan borrowers questioned were “highly likely” or “somewhat likely” to participate in a student loan boycott after payments resume. Eight out of 10 respondents said a presidential candidate’s position on student debt forgiveness would “somewhat” or “strongly” influence their decision to whether to vote for that candidate.
A White House fact sheet touting the new Save program makes no mention of its estimated cost in the long run, but independent estimates by the Penn Wharton Budget Model have put the total cost to taxpayers at about $475 billion over the next decade. In its announcement, the White House boasts that it has now canceled more than $116 billion worth of student debt held by some 3.4 million Americans despite the Supreme Court ruling in June that the original plan to cancel $400 billion in debt exceeded the administration’s authority.
Republicans in Congress, irked that the administration is shoveling so much money without its authorization, have already pledged to try to block the new Save program when Congress resumes business after the Labor Day holiday. The top Republican on the Senate Education Committee, Senator Cassidy, told Politico that he would introduce a resolution under the Congressional Review Act to force a vote on the issue in the Senate. Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, the chairwoman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, has pledged a similar effort in the House.
“Taxpayers just got sucker punched — again — by this administration,” Ms. Foxx said in a statement when Mr. Biden first announced the Save plan in June. “Today, President Biden announced that taxpayers will be forced to pay for the costliest regulation in our nation’s history, which will only exacerbate inflated college costs and excessive debt balances.”
Mr. Cassidy added that the Save plan “is deeply unfair to the 87 percent of Americans who currently have no student loans and will now have to foot the bill for someone else’s debt.”