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Student-loan forgiveness is ‘clearly important’ to Biden, the White House says — but there’s no timeline for when it might happen

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre answers questions during the daily briefing at the White House June 13, 2022 in Washington, DC.

Win McNamee/Getty Images

  • White House Press Sec. Karine Jean-Pierre said student-loan forgiveness is “clearly important” to Biden.
  • But she added she does not have a timeline for when it might happen.
  • Prior reports suggested the relief would be implemented before payments resume in September.

Millions of borrowers are waiting for President Joe Biden to cancel some of their federal debt, which was expected to happen before the pause on student-loan payments expires after August 31. 

But with that date just 43 days away, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre suggested there still might be uncertainty on providing that relief.

“I dont have a timeline for you,” Jean-Pierre responded to a reporter asking for an update on debt cancellation on Tuesday. “I know this is a question that comes up often in the briefing room. This is something that is clearly important to the president and as soon as we have anything to preview we will make sure that happens.”

Recent reports have suggested Biden is considering $10,000 in loan forgiveness for federal borrowers making under $150,000 a year, an announcement likely to be made in July or August, closer to when the payment pause expires. But it’s a decision borrowers have been waiting a lot longer than just months for — Biden pledged on the campaign trail to cancel $10,000 in student debt. In April, he said he would make that decision “in the next couple of weeks.”

It’s unclear what exactly the hold-up might be, given that canceling the debt doesn’t require Congress’ participation and it’s something Biden can do on his own by signing an executive order. He has previously expressed concerns that any debt relief might go to people who don’t need it, like students who attended Ivy League schools, which is likely why he’s reportedly considering an income cap on any forgiveness. As Insider previously reported, placing thresholds on relief will be a significant administrative burden that the Education Department likely cannot carry out on its own.

Additionally, Republican lawmakers have frequently slammed the idea of broad relief, partly because they said it would exacerbate the already-high levels of inflation in the country by putting more money back in consumers’ pockets. Some of Biden’s advisers appear to be concerned about that, as well. Jared Bernstein, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, previously told The New York Times, “The key economic fact here is that if debt payment restart and debt relief were to occur at roughly the same time, the net inflationary effect should be neutral.” 

But lawmakers and advocates have concerns with the Education Department’s ability to cancel student debt and resume payments in such a short time-frame. Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers sent letters to the department last month asking for details on the department’s preparedness to effectively execute those actions, and advocates have stressed that even if student debt is canceled this summer, the pause needs to be extended to ensure every eligible borrower gets relief before they have to make payments again.

“We strongly urge your administration not to threaten the financial security of people with student debt as a tactic to fight inflation,” 180 groups wrote to Biden. “Instead our organizations urge you to enact robust student debt cancellation that is not means tested and does not require an opt-in for participation and to fully implement this policy before any student-loan bill comes due.”

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