Biden has canceled $17B in student loan debt, but here's why he's not getting credit for it

U.S. President Joe Biden walks towards members of the press prior to a Marine One departure from the White House on March 23, 2022 in Washington, DC.
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 23: U.S. President Joe Biden walks towards members of the press prior to a Marine One departure from the White House on March 23, 2022 in Washington, DC. Photo credit Alex Wong/Getty Images

More than 43 million Americans have student loan debt, accounting for a total of about $1.6 trillion still owed to the federal government, according to a report by MeasureOne in July 2021, per NerdWallet.

President Joe Biden has given some relief to nearly 700,000 people for a total of more than $17 billion in student loan forgiveness, but many people, including those who voted for him in 2020, are unhappy with how he's handled the situation.

Federal student loans have been paused since March 2020 at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, but are scheduled to resume again on May 1, after the Biden administration extended it from Feb. 1, according to CNN.

Biden announced the decision to extend the pause on Dec. 22, 2021, and said at the time in a statement that the government is working on a way for people to be prepared to start repaying their loans.

"Meanwhile, the Department of Education will continue working with borrowers to ensure they have the support they need to transition smoothly back into repayment and advance economic stability for their own households and for our nation," Biden said in the statement.

In February, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren both said Biden should fulfill his promise of cancelling $10,000 of federal student loan debt for all 43 million borrowers. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that Biden still supports the plan, but is "calling on Congress to draft the proposal," according to CNN.

"The President has and continues to support canceling $10,000 of federal student loan debt per person as a response to the COVID crisis," Psaki said.

Jennifer Lewis, a 57-year-old nurse practitioner in Washington state told CNN that she feels like Biden is "not delivering on his promise" as she and many others are still struggling with their amount of student loan debt.

"If he were to run again, I would think twice about voting for president at all," Lewis said.

As the May 1 deadline nears closer, there is now an added pressure from a number of politicians, including Schumer and Sen. Warren, for Biden to cancel $50,000 per borrower. Although, Michelle Dimino, an education senior policy adviser at Third Way told CNN that there is still no clear plan to cancel all of the student loan debt.

"I think it's important to keep in mind that there is far from a consensus viewpoint among Democratic members of Congress and Democratic voters that large sums of debt should be canceled," Dimino said.

The administration could still extend the date for loans to resume past May 1, but if they don't, nearly 7.8 million borrowers will be at a "high risk" to successfully repay their loans, according to a report by the California Policy Lab.

White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain told Pod Save America at the beginning on the month what Biden's next steps will be to cancel or continue to pause student loan debt payments.

"The president is going to look at what we should do on student debt before the pause expires, or he’ll extend the pause," Klain said.

Sheila Blair, former Chair of the FDIC and former Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury for Financial Institutions, said in an op-ed on Yahoo Finance, that it's time for the administration to make a decision.

"Klain is right that the president needs to decide about student debt cancellation before he decides on when to resume student loan repayments but wrong to keep this cloud of uncertainty over the heads of 40+ million student borrowers," Blair wrote. "They need to know whether and when their loan obligations will resume. With every delay, it becomes harder for them to prepare."

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images