WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats are asking the White House to extend the student loan repayment freeze and the president to forgive up to $50,000 in student debt — but so far the administration is not moving.

The standoff is one of the most notable splits between President Joe Biden and members of his party, who are pressing intensely to provide more relief to borrowers as a freeze nears the end of its term. pandemic era.

Stephen Graves, director of undergraduate studies for the Department of Black Studies at the University of Missouri, said in an interview that black student borrowers would be hit the hardest by the end of the freeze, and he warned that this could affect the turnout of young adults at the polls in 2022.

“A lot of black students typically end up with undergraduate degrees, and/or majors, or working in jobs that are less likely to allow them to repay those student loans,” he said.

At a recent press briefing, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that the Biden administration had not ordered the Department of Education to continue the pause on student refunds. student loans, which ends on January 31.

PSAKI said President Joe Biden supports student debt forgiveness of $10,000 per borrower, if passed by Congress.

“If Congress sends him a bill, he’s happy to sign it,” she said. “They haven’t sent him an invoice for this yet.”

emergency freeze

At the start of the pandemic, in March 2020, the Trump administration issued an emergency pause on student loan repayments. The Trump and Biden administrations extended it. The pandemic is still ongoing and the United States has just exceeded 800,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

Senate Democrats are now urging Biden to use his executive privilege to forgive up to $50,000 in student loan debt.

“There have been questions and requests about the executive authorities that could be used; it has been reviewed,” PSAKI said on Tuesday. “I have nothing to report on this at this time.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, told the Senate that congressional approval was not needed and that Democrats did not have the votes on their own to pass legislation. that would cancel student debt.

In an evenly divided Senate, Democrats would need all of their party members to side, along with 10 Republicans, because of current Senate filibuster rules.

“It’s about taking a simple, common-sense step to cut people’s costs; it is a matter of racial equity; and it’s about giving people more opportunities to build wealth and achieve the American dream and the administration can do that on its own,” Schumer said.

The Federal Reserve estimates total US student debt to be over $1.75 trillion. The Department of Education owns about 92% of that student loan debt, which is why Democrats argue Biden has the power to erase student debt through an executive order.

Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia, along with 13 Senate Democrats, sent a letter to Biden, arguing that the country is still in a state of national emergency due to the pandemic and that the administration should extend the freeze.

“The U.S. Department of Education (“Department”) notes that student loan interest relief saves borrowers an additional $5 billion each month,” they wrote in the letter. “This is money that is now available for housing, food and other daily necessities to help borrowers support themselves, their families and their communities during this pandemic.”

Other senators who have signed include Ron Wyden of Oregon, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Tina Smith of Minnesota, Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, among others.

Certain loan forgiveness

The Biden administration has canceled up to $11.5 billion in loans for nearly 600,000 borrowers.

However, this discount only applies to borrowers in specific circumstances – those with permanent disabilities, who attended schools that are no longer in operation, or government workers.

At a town hall in Wisconsin in February, Biden made it clear that he did not support cancellation up to $50,000 per student borrower and said he only supported a cancellation of $10,000 per the Congress.

In a letter to Biden, the Student Borrower Protection Center — a student loan advocacy group — along with 200 organizations pushed for immediate student debt relief.

“It is critical that your administration continues to deliver on its promises to student borrowers and their families before ending the pause in payments and collections,” the letter said.

Borrowers need immediate relief from the crushing burden of massive student loan debt as the pandemic exacerbates financial hardship for all Americans and puts existing racial disparities in wealth and education into relief. particularly striking.

The organizations pointed out that “the burden of student debt and the costs of our broken student loan system fall disproportionately on black and brown borrowers.”

The Brookings Institution, a left-wing think tank, reported in 2016 that, on average, black students graduating owed $7,400 more than white, Asian, and Latino students graduating at the same time.

Reimbursement struggles

Graves said black borrowers carry more student debt, likely more than other groups, and struggle to repay.

Even with the pause in student loan repayments over the past two years, black borrowers are unlikely to benefit as much as white borrowers, he said.

“Not having to pay those student loans for the last two years has allowed them some flexibility, of course, but unfortunately that happened during the time of COVID for which there has been a greater number of layoffs and job losses and black people are most likely to be in laborious jobs that do not allow them to work from home,” he said.

He added that young voters will not be motivated to vote for the Democrats if campaign promises such as student loan debt reform are not delivered.

“You went there on a student loan debt forgiveness platform,” Graves said of Biden. “You came out on the student loan forgiveness platform and then of course reneged and then lied about it and didn’t. Young people will remember these things.

In October 2020, during a town hall in Miami, Biden said that “I will eliminate your student debt if you come from a family (earning less) $125,000 and you went to a public university”, according to Black business.

Biden later added that “I’m going to make sure everyone gets $10,000 off their student debt.” Biden’s campaign platform has called for free public college tuition for those earning less than $125,000 and other initiatives.

Graves added that many of the policies advocated by Democrats do not help young voters, but benefit middle-class white voters, such as expanding the child tax credit and paternity leave.

“Things like the child tax credit don’t do anything for young Democrats,” he said, “young people don’t have kids. We cannot afford to have children.