Democrats kept the heat on President Biden on Thursday to wipe away $50,000 from the debt of all people with student loans.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, both Massachusetts Democrats, said at a press conference that canceling the student debt is a matter of “economic and racial justice.” They said it’s a priority to help those who had to take out loans to go to college, because most Americans cannot afford higher education without having to borrow.
Ms. Pressley urged Mr. Biden “to do right by the movement that elected him.”
“If President Biden is serious about economic and racial justice, he must use his executive authority to issue broad-based student debt cancellation,” she said.
Critics say the controversial proposal, which is estimated to cost $1 trillion, would be unfair to those who didn’t have the opportunity to go to college. Others say it would ignore those who have paid off their student loans despite the financial hardship of doing so.
Mr. Biden has questioned whether he has the power to wipe away the debt with the stroke of his pen. He has said instead he would support Congress canceling $10,000 of all borrowers’ debt.
The administration has also taken smaller steps, canceling about $1 billion in debt held by students who had been defrauded by for-profit universities.
However, Ms. Warren said that government spending on higher education has declined over the years, and as a result, the cost of attending college has shifted from the federal and state governments to students through higher tuition. Federal spending on postsecondary education reached a high of $70.7 billion in 2017, but dropped to $34.1 billion in 2019.
Ms. Warren noted that when she went to college, she could make enough to pay tuition by working part-time as a waitress. “That opportunity is simply not out there today,” Ms. Warren said.
And Ms. Pressley framed canceling student debt as a way to deal with the wealth gap between Black and White Americans. Because Black students are less likely than White students to have parents who can pay for college, they are more likely to have to borrow and now find themselves deeply in debt, she said.
Ms. Warren argued, “there is no other single action that the president can take that could close that gap.”
White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said Thursday that Mr. Biden has told his secretary of education to prepare a memo outlining his legal authority on student debt.
“Hopefully, we will see that in the next few weeks, and then he will look at that legal authority, he will look at the policy issues around that and make a decision,” Mr. Klain said in a Politico Playbook interview. “He hasn’t made a decision on that either way. In fact, he hasn’t gotten the memo he needs to start to focus on that decision.”
⦁ Seth McLaughlin contributed to this article.
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