Student Loans in the Spotlight as Lawmakers Urge Pause, Debt Cancellation
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Some members of Congress are urging the Biden-Harris Administration to extend the pause on student loan payments until Spring 2022. The goal is to give borrowers more time to get back on their feet amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) held a press conference about the issue Tuesday on Capitol Hill.   

In June, the lawmakers wrote a letter to President Biden calling on the president to extend the pause on federal student loan payments until at least March 31, 2022. 

Schumer spoke on the Senate floor, explaining that there are currently some 45 million student loan borrowers across the country who owe $1.7 trillion in educational debt. “In good times, paying off tens of thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands in debt can be a crushing endeavor, particularly to younger people ready to go out in the prime of life,” he said. “But during this pandemic, as Americans lost jobs and incomes, it has become even harder to pay back those loans.”

The federal government provided a lifeline for tens of millions of borrowers when a pause was ordered on most federal student loan repayments last spring. Yet this stopgap measure will expire in about two months, even as many student borrowers are still readjusting to a new normal. 

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Earlier this year, Pressley, Warren, and Schumer led their colleagues in reintroducing their bicameral resolution outlining a bold plan for the White House to tackle the student loan debt crisis. It involves the commander in chief using existing authority under the Higher Education Act to cancel up to $50,000 in student loan debt for Federal student loan borrowers.

Pressley said in remarks that the student debt crisis has disproportionately impacted Black and brown borrowers in her Massachusetts district and all across the country.  “…Due to generations of precise and intentional policy violence, [we] have been forced to take on higher rates of student debt for just a chance at the same degree as our white peers,” she said. 

Biden has previously stated he might favor canceling $10,000 in student loan debt. Pressley wants to see a much higher figure. 

“Doing so is one of the most effective ways he can provide sweeping relief to millions of families, while helping to reduce the racial wealth gap and lay the groundwork for an equitable and just long-term recovery. In this moment of ongoing crisis, our families need every bit of help they can get.”