Student loan forgiveness will never happen if this continues to be the best strategy.
Here’s what you need to know.
Progressives in Congress — from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) — are keen on cancelling up to $50,000 of your student loans. They want President Joe Biden to sign an executive order immediately to provide you student loan relief. All it takes, they argue, is his John Hancock “with the flick of a pen,” referring to Biden’s signature on an executive order. Schumer even has a pen ready for Biden to use.
To make student loan cancellation a reality, among other efforts, they’ve proposed legislation, written letters, given speeches and rallied student loan borrowers. However, that’s where it seemingly has stopped. It seems now the effort from Congress to cancel student loans has been reduced to the frequent tweet: “Today would be a great day to cancel student loans.” The tweet usually garners likes and retweets, but then it stops. Despite several years of this same strategy, there has no wide-scale student loan cancellation. There are 45 million student loan borrowers collectively $1.7 trillion of student loan debt. Yet, there hasn’t been any mass student loan cancellation despite all these efforts. If progressives in Congress want student loans cancelled, it’s time to change the strategy.
1. Pass legislation to cancel student loans
Progressives should attempt to pass some kind of legislation in Congress to cancel student loans. Relying on Biden to cancel student loans is not a sure bet, since the president has repeatedly indicated that he doesn’t have the legal authority to enact wide-scale student loan cancellation. To date, Schumer hasn’t held a vote on student loan cancellation. How do progressives in Congress expect to get student loan cancellation if they haven’t passed any comprehensive legislation? Congress won’t pass $50,000 of student loan cancellation. Congress won’t pass $10,000 of student loan cancellation. However, Congress should seek an alternative solution that both parties in Congress can support. It may not be their first choice, but if it’s student loan relief they seek, legislation may be necessary.
2. Posting “cancel student loans” on social media isn’t the most effective strategy
Social media is an effective media to spread important messages. There’s nothing wrong with sharing sentiments about policy issues like student loan cancellation. The reality is that repeating that Biden should cancel student loans today or tomorrow isn’t going to change policy. It may rally the troops. It may get likes and retweets. However, it also may mislead people into thinking that student loan forgiveness is close when it isn’t.
3. Align on student loan forgiveness with Biden
Currently, progressives in Congress, while members of the same political party as the president, have chosen to create an “us versus him” mentality with respect to student loan cancellation. Yes, there are different viewpoints on how best to approach federal spending and how to address the cost of higher education. However, Biden as moved aggressively to focus on targeted student loan cancellation. Biden has now cancelled $11.5 billion of student loans, which is more than any other president. Biden is revamping public service loan forgiveness and ensuring that more student loan borrowers have access to student loan forgiveness. He has helped provide $1.5 billion in student loan forgiveness through the borrower defense to repayment rule and $5.8 billion of student loan cancellation for student loan borrowers with a total and permanent disability. This may not be the wide-scale student loan forgiveness that some members of Congress desire. However, it would advance the cause for student loan relief to focus on policies that both Congress and the president can embrace.
Student loans: next steps
There are other areas of mutual cooperation that progressives can pursue. There is some bipartisan support for amending the bankruptcy laws in Congress, for example. This could help more student loan borrowers get student loan forgiveness. There is also more targeted student loan forgiveness to come. The president may simplify income-driven repayment plans and expand other areas of student loan forgiveness. Congress and the president should work together to find areas where they can align. More importantly, can Democrats and Republicans work together to address the cost of higher education? Student loans are how education is financed, but it’s the underlying cost — specifically the growth in tuition — that is the real problem Congress should evaluate. Let’s create solutions to make higher education more affordable so that more people have access to higher-paying jobs and a better quality of life.
The chances of wide-scale student loan cancellation are relatively low. Don’t expect wide-scale student loan cancellation. Student loan relief from the Covid-19 pandemic will be ending shortly, so now is the time to plan for your student loan repayment. Make sure to evaluate all your options for your student loans. Here are some smart ways to save money: