Accelerated implementation of federal student loan repayment drives deeper wedge

(The Center Square) – Federal student loan forgiveness, hotly debated and previously litigated by political parties, will begin for some in February rather than July, a date moved up by the Biden administration and announced through the U.S. Department of Education.

The move comes a few days shy of the third anniversary of President Joe Biden’s inauguration speech calling for unity in the nation, and 10 months before Election Day. Republicans’ reaction was clear in the response of Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., the chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and Workforce.

“President Biden is downright desperate to buy votes before the election – so much so that he greenlights the Department of Education to dump even more kerosene on an already raging student debt fire,” Foxx said in a statement Friday. “It would surprise no one if the department relied on infants playing with abacuses to balance it books – it is a complete and utter disaster.”

Friday’s announcement eventually will impact 6.9 million borrowers enrolled in the Saving on a Valuable Education Plan, including more than a half-million in each of California (597,300) and Texas (591,700), and more than a quarter-million in Florida (475,800), New York (374,300), Ohio (299,600), Pennsylvania (289,800) and Georgia (286,000). SAVE, for borrowers taking out $12,000 or less for college and who have made at least 10 years of repayments, replaced the Revised Pay As You Earn plan and netted more twice the registrations.

Exactly how many will get cancellation next month was not announced by the Education Department. The plan is not like the president’s first, a wide sweep of student debt cancellation eventually stopped by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Already, my administration has canceled student debt for 3.6 million Americans through various actions – delivering lifechanging relief to students and families, and we created the most affordable student loan repayment plan ever: the SAVE plan,” Biden said in a statement. “It’s part of our ongoing efforts to act as quickly as possible to give more borrowers breathing room so they can get out from under the burden of student loan debt, move on with their lives and pursue their dreams.”

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said the plan is designed “to put community college students and other low-balance borrowers on a faster track to debt forgiveness than ever before.” Republicans say it is Biden’s way around failing to get congressional support to make community college free.

In response to Biden’s initial student loan forgiveness plan, the president asked the Education Department to try again under different legal authority. Published reports in October said the new plan would target specific groups, such as those with high interest.

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