New Analysis by SBPC and AFT Sounds Alarm for More than 260,000 Public Service Workers as Congress Takes Historic Vote to Reinstate Already-Cancelled Student Loans and Block Student Debt Relief
May 23, 2023 | WASHINGTON, D.C. — Moments ago, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) released a comprehensive report detailing the transformative work of the AFT and the Student Borrower Protection Center (SBPC) to curb the effects of student debt on workers—and exposing the ruinous impact of the student debt Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution to be considered by the House of Representatives in coming days.
The resolution would destroy the lives of millions of borrowers and their families by forcing them to repay thousands of dollars in already forgiven debt.
“This is a disaster,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “For years, the AFT and SBPC have fought the damage forced by the Trump Administration on student loan borrowers and their families. Now, MAGA politicians don’t just want to stop that progress, they want to reinstate student debt previously cancelled for more than 260,000 teachers, nurses, firefighters, and others. It’s an immoral clawback of the absolute worst kind.”
The new data demonstrate that the Republican-led student debt CRA resolution will cause far greater harm to public service workers with student debt than previously estimated—reinstating already forgiven loans for more than 260,000 public service workers. It would drive more than 2 million teachers, nurses, first responders, and others even further into debt.
SBPC-AFT analysis of the effect of the student debt CRA resolution on public service workers across America and in each state is available at: https://protectborrowers.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/CRA-fact-sheet.pdf
A copy of the new report, AFT’s Fight for Student Debt Forgiveness, is available at: https://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/media/documents/2023/pslf_report_may2023.pdf
The report also documents the AFT’s and SBPC’s efforts over more than a decade to help over 615,000 teachers, firefighters, nurses, and other public workers win student debt relief and to remove the shackles of the nation’s spiraling $1.7 trillion debt burden. The union has listened to AFT members and shared their stories—building the case to policymakers and the public that when borrowers struggle to access their right to student debt relief, it affects all of us.
“Public service workers have dedicated their lives to making a difference in the lives of others,” added Weingarten. “They care deeply about what kids and communities need. We have a duty to honor and respect them—that’s why, 16 years ago, a bipartisan majority in Congress made a promise to help them erase their student debt in exchange for 10 years of repayments. We will not stand idly by as House Republicans try to return us to those dark days.”
The report reveals that the Republican-led student debt CRA scheme would:
- Reinstate the student loan debt of more than 260,000 public service workers nationwide who had loan balances cancelled after completing 10 years of public service;
- Drop a nearly $20 billion debt burden onto the backs of these hardworking nurses, firefighters, and service members still emerging from the pandemic and its economic consequences; and
- Roll back progress that more than 2 million public service workers have made toward the future cancellation of more than $178 billion in student loan debt via the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program.
In addition to the devastating impact on public service workers outlined in this new report, the CRA resolution will reverse months of paused payments and already waived interest charges implemented as part of the government’s pandemic response, immediately leaving 40 million student loan borrowers past due on their loans and adding tens of billions of dollars in new interest charges. It will also block President Joe Biden’s promise to cancel up to $20,000 in student debt for borrowers.
“This week’s vote is a test of American values—do we stand on the side of teachers, nurses, first responders, and service members who fought to keep our kids safe and our communities healthy throughout the pandemic, or do we betray their service in pursuit of Republicans’ never-ending culture war,” said Mike Pierce, executive director of SBPC. “Taking back student debt relief already delivered to public service workers is reckless, cruel, unjust, and un-American.”
House Republican leadership has announced that this resolution will be considered on the House floor on Wednesday, May 24.
Analyses from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and SBPC highlight growing rates of consumer distress as the country faces the highest level of inflation in nearly four decades. Additionally, a recent analysis by SBPC highlights the economic catastrophe that would result from congressional efforts to use the CRA to forcibly restart student loan payments and block debt relief.
Earlier this month, an unprecedented coalition of more than 260 labor unions; civil rights groups; and student, borrower, and economic justice advocates signed a letter to congressional leadership opposing this resolution.
Since March 2020, more than 37 million borrowers across the country have benefited from the moratorium on student loan payments and suspension of interest. This set of student loan protections, which was originally enacted by former President Donald Trump and received bipartisan congressional support until recently, has been extended via executive actions by both administrations eight times. The payment pause has provided much-needed economic breathing room for working families, allowing student loan borrowers to collectively shift more than $222 million in student loan payments to pay down other debts and improve their credit, afford medication, and simply make ends meet.
If the student debt CRA resolution is enacted, according to a prior SBPC analysis, tens of millions of borrowers would be forcibly thrown back into repayment during a time when student loan servicers are publicly warning that they are unprepared to manage a restart of student loan payments.
In a matter of weeks following Biden’s historic student debt cancellation announcement, 26 million borrowers submitted applications—further evidence of the crushing burden this debt has had on workers and families from all walks of life. Sixteen million borrowers have already been approved for relief. As a result of these overtly political lawsuits, tens of millions of borrowers are now left in economic limbo as they await a Supreme Court ruling in June—with the looming threat of payments set to resume later this year. These CRA resolutions, if enacted, will add to the confusion and panic that borrowers all over the country are already experiencing as they wait on the court.
- Congressional Research Service Analysis on the Impact of Student Debt CRA Resolution: https://protectborrowers.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/CRS_COVID-19-Student-Loan-Flexibilities-and-the-Congressional-Review-Act_05-04-2023.pdf
- Statement of Administration Policy Threatening to Veto the Student Debt CRA Resolution: https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/HJR45-SAP.pdf
- SBPC Two-Pager on the Effects of the Student Debt CRA Resolution: https://protectborrowers.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/CRA-Two-Pager.pdf
- SBPC Analysis of the Effects of the Student Debt CRA Resolution on Service Members and Veterans: https://protectborrowers.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/CRA-Servicemembers-and-Veterans-Fact-Sheet.pdf
- SBPC Analysis of the Effects of the Student Debt CRA Resolution on All Borrowers (April 2023): https://protectborrowers.org/new-analysis-confirms-congressional-efforts-to-overturn-payment-pause-and-debt-relief-will-wreak-economic-havoc-on-tens-of-millions-of-borrowers/
Thanks to the AFT and SBPC’s advocacy, more than 615,000 public employees, including but not limited to veterans, teachers, nurses, librarians, firefighters, higher education faculty, and school staff, have had over $42 billion in loans forgiven under PSLF. The union has run student debt clinics, sued Navient and former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, pursued labor-management partnerships and collective bargaining, lobbied Congress and state legislatures, and partnered with the online tool Summer to streamline the PSLF application process.
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.
About the American Federation of Teachers
The American Federation of Teachers represents more than 1.7 million educators, school professionals, government employees and healthcare professionals. The AFT has more than 3,000 affiliates nationwide and advocates across the country for high-quality public education, healthcare and public services for students, families and communities.