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Student loan forgiveness could be the biggest mistake of Biden’s presidency.

Here’s what you need to know — and what it means for your student loans.

Student Loans

President Joe Biden has a historic choice before him in an incredibly important election year. Biden can enact wide-scale student loan cancellation for millions of student loan borrowers. Or he can forgo broad student loan relief and focus on targeted student loan forgiveness. In either case, the president could make the biggest mistake of his presidency. Let’s explore.

Student loan forgiveness: a major decision

Student loan forgiveness is a major decision for Biden as Democrats face an uphill battle to retain control of Congress in the midterm election on November 8, 2022. One mistake, and voters could either choose not to vote or could vote for Republicans. Advocates of student loan forgiveness want Biden to cancel student loans for several reasons:

  • Stimulate the economy;
  • reduce disparities and inequality; and
  • give student loan borrowers a shot at the Americans Dream so they can afford to get married, start a family, save for retirement or start a business.

If Biden proceeds with wide-scale student loan cancellation, Biden inevitably will make at least some student loan borrowers unhappy. For example:

  • Amount of student loan forgiveness: If Biden cancels $10,000 of student loans, some borrowers will say he should have canceled $50,000 of student loans or even all student loan debt.
  • Who qualifies for student loan forgiveness: Or, if Biden imposes income limits on who qualifies for student loan forgiveness, some student loan borrowers will say everyone should qualify for student loan cancellation.

Some borrowers will be happy to get any student loan relief. Others will say Biden should have canceled more student debt. Biden has favored $10,000 of student loan forgiveness, even though the White House denied a report that Biden has reached a final decision. The Biden administration also has floated a possible income cap of $125,000 or $150,000 to qualify for student loan forgiveness. Biden also ruled out $50,000 of student loan cancellation. However, a renewed push to cancel $50,000 of student loans could persuade Biden to reconsider his position. Some student loan borrowers will view an income cap as reasonable, while others will say higher-income earners are struggling financially too.

Student loan cancellation: if Biden focuses on targeted student loan relief

If Biden chooses to focus on targeted student loan relief, he will win and lose supporters. Biden has canceled $25 billion of student loans and he has made major changes to student loan forgiveness. He has focused on targeted student loan relief for specific student loan borrowers such as public servants, disabled borrowers and borrowers who were misled by their college or university. For example, a report this week shows that 9 million student loan borrowers are now eligible for student loan forgiveness. If Biden doesn’t enact wide-scale student loan forgiveness, here’s what could happen:

  • Intra-party fighting: progressive Democrats will continue to criticize Biden until the midterm election.
  • Alienate progressive voters: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) says if Biden fails to cancel student loans, it will ensure Democrats lose control of Congress and alienate young voters.
  • Win over independents: Independent and moderate voters generally oppose broad student loan cancellation. If Biden chooses against broad student loan forgiveness, he could rally these voters to help Democrats keep control of Congress.

Republicans in Congress already have criticized the president for even considering executive action to cancel student loans. They argue:

Student loans: next steps

For some, wide-scale student loan forgiveness is an easy choice with a clear yes or no answer. For others, it’s more complex and has multiple policy and political implications. No matter which path Biden takes, he will gain and lose supporters. One thing Democrats and Republicans can agree on is this: wide-scale student loan cancellation may benefit select student loan borrowers, but it won’t address the underlying problem that college is unaffordable for most Americans. Biden also must address the end of temporary student loan relief, which ends on August 31. If you don’t have a strategy for student loan repayment once student loan payments restart, you need one. Here are some of the best ways to pay off student loans faster and save money:

Student Loans: Related Reading

Senators propose major changes to student loan forgiveness

Education Department announces major overhaul of student loan servicing

Navient agrees to cancel $3.5 million of student loans

How to qualify for $17 billion of student loan forgiveness


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