US President Joe Biden has announced new measures to address student loan debt, with provisions including up to $20,000 debt forgiveness for millions of borrowers and an extension of the payment freeze until the end of the year.
The move fulfils one of the president’s core campaign promises, with Biden having pledged to enact major reforms to America’s student loan system.
“Education is a ticket to a better life. … but over time that ticket has become too expensive for too many Americans,” Biden said, announcing the legislation in a speech from the White House. “All this means that an entire generation is now saddled with unsustainable debt in exchange for an attempt, at least, at a college degree. The burden is so heavy that even if you graduate you may not have access to the middle-class life that the college degree once provided.”
Borrowers who earn less than $125,000 a year and received Pell Grants, which are given to students from low- and middle-income families, are eligible for up to $20,000 in debt forgiveness. Individuals who earn less than $125,000 a year but did not receive Pell Grants are eligible for $10,000 in debt forgiveness.
Biden said that the administration’s “targeted actions are for families that need it the most: working and middle class people hit especially hard during the pandemic making under $125,000 a year,” adding that “about 90% of the eligible beneficiaries make under $75,000.”
Despite proving generally popular with voters, the proposals had met some criticism from the left that they didn’t go far enough, whilst right wing commentators lamented that it punished those that did not go into debt.
“I understand not everything I’m announcing is going to make everybody happy,” Biden said. “Some think it’s too much, I find it interesting how some of my Republican friends who voted for those tax cuts think we shouldn’t be helping these folks.”
“Some think it’s too little, but I believe my plan is responsible and fair. It focuses the benefit of middle-class and working families, it helps both current and future borrowers and it’ll fix a badly broken system.”