As COVID-19 cases continue to surge — while federal economic protections for student loans, evictions, and expanded unemployment expire in December — a powerful coalition of Democrats, led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, is pushing Biden to use executive action to cancel $50,000 of student loan debt per person as a form of economic stimulus. Meanwhile, some Democratic voters, joined by moderate Republicans who helped Biden win in key swing states, are looking on in horror. They argue that offering significant relief to people with existing student debt relief is deeply regressive: it excludes a population of blue-collar workers who never earned a college degree but are bearing the brunt of this economic downturn.
Fresh off a successful campaign in which he promised to bridge partisan divides and heal America, Biden is stuck in the middle of this contentious debate. Whether he can navigate it, successfully keeping all contingents happy, may set the tone for the rest of his presidency.
I think it’s a little premature to say student loans on day one are going to make or break Biden’s presidency, but I do think this is an opportunity to set a very different tone than the previous administration. Vesoulis’s article is a good recap of the arguments for and against canceling this debt, especially during a pandemic.
I get the argument against canceling $50k in loans, but I’m not sure I agree with it. I think anyone can be hurting during this pandemic, and having a significant monthly expense removed from your budget can open the door to other investments — like a house. And canceling student debt must only be one avenue to ease the hurt of this pandemic — we need real relief from Congress hitting Biden’s desk on day one.
Regardless of Biden’s ability and willingness to cancel some student debt, the higher educational costs in the country need to be addressed by this administration. Everyone deserves an opportunity to attend college, but getting an education shouldn’t put an eighteen year old into a decade of debt. It’s not good for the school, it’s not good for the student and family, and it’s really bad for the economy.