Advocates Warn That Failure to Act Swiftly Will Cause Inordinate Harm to Millions of Borrowers and Their Families
July 19, 2023 | WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, a diverse coalition of 179 organizations representing tens of millions of people with student loan debt sent a letter to President Biden applauding him for announcing plans to enact a new debt relief plan under the Higher Education Act. The letter also calls on the President to immediately deliver on his original promise to cancel student debt and protect borrowers before throwing them back into the depths of the fundamentally broken student loan repayment system.
The groups caution in their letter:
“Due to the crushing nature of the student debt crisis and the fact that millions of workers and families have already had to wait in economic limbo for nearly a year as partisan lawsuits blocked transformative relief in court, we urge you to continue the necessary work to deliver on your promise of up to $20,000 in student debt relief and enact your new debt relief plan as swiftly as possible.
“The recently signed Fiscal Responsibility Act, which suspends the debt ceiling until 2025 while codifying the end of the student loan payment pause—a crucial economic lifeline for millions—has made it all the more urgent to act now to cancel student debt before payments resume. While the Administration has announced notable steps to mitigate the harshest economic consequences for borrowers…restarting the fundamentally broken student loan system without first delivering on the relief promised to borrowers remains a grave mistake….”
A copy of the letter can be found here: https://protectborrowers.org/July-2023-HEA-Biden-Cancellation-Organizational-Sign-On-Letter
When President Biden announced his plan to restart student loan payments after more than three years, a key part of the plan was to implement broad debt relief first to adequately protect borrowers and families from financial distress. In November 2022, a coalition of hundreds of organizations representing students, workers, and people of color called on President Biden to extend the pause on federal student loan payments until he kept his promise to cancel student debt and utilize every legal authority available to enact that debt relief.
On June 30, 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with right-wing special interests and formally blocked President Biden’s plan to use emergency powers to cancel up to $20,000 for student loan borrowers in the wake of the COVID-19 emergency. In doing so, the Court ignored the letter of the law, which gave the President clear authority to provide debt relief via the HEROES Act, and ripped away critical relief from more than 40 million borrowers and their families.
Hours after the Supreme Court’s ruling and in response to organizing and mobilizing from borrowers and advocacy organizations, President Biden announced a new plan to cancel student loan debt using the Higher Education Act, which provides broad authority to the Secretary of Education to “compromise, waive or release loans.”
While President Biden will continue fighting for borrowers by enacting debt relief through an alternative authority, the President chose to do so via a formal rulemaking process that can take anywhere from a few months to a year to complete. The first step of the process—public comment—ends on July 20, 2023. All public comments “must be submitted through the Federal eRulemaking Portal at regulations.gov.” After the Department reviews all public comments, it will announce a negotiated rulemaking committee plan.In response to the rulemaking deadline, borrowers and advocacy groups launched a drive to submit public comments. Within just a few days, borrowers submitted 14,839 letters and counting in support of cancellation. Millions of borrowers have already waited nearly a year as partisan lawsuits blocked debt relief in the courts.
June 2022 coalition letter urging President Biden to cancel student debt immediately: https://protectborrowers.org/550-organizations-tell-president-biden-to-cancel-student-debt-immediately/
Student Borrower Protection Center (SBPC) statement on President Biden’s new relief plan: https://protectborrowers.org/biden-needs-to-keep-his-promise-now/
SBPC memo on the Supreme Court ruling: https://protectborrowers.org/scotus-lawlessly-blocks-student-debt-relief/
Polling conducted by SBPC and Data for Progress revealing broad support for action to deliver debt relief using legal authority not connected to the pandemic and not affected by the Supreme Court’s ruling: https://www.filesforprogress.org/datasets/2023/6/dfp_sbpc_scotus_ruling_tabs.pdf
About Student Borrower Protection Center
The Student Borrower Protection Center (SBPC) is a nonprofit organization focused on alleviating the burden of student debt for millions of Americans. The SBPC engages in advocacy, policymaking, and litigation strategy to rein in industry abuses, protect borrowers’ rights, and advance economic opportunity for the next generation of students.