90 top Democrats call on Biden to do more on student debt

Nearly 100 leading members of the Democratic Party are calling on President Joe Biden to do more to fulfill his campaign promise to cancel student debt for American borrowers.

Mr Biden’s signature student loan forgiveness programme, which would have cancelled a minimum $10,000 of debt for all borrowers making less than $100,000, was blocked earlier this summer by the US Supreme Court in a 6-3 vote that fell along ideological lines.

After that decision was announced, Mr Biden vowed to take other steps to ease the financial burden on borrowers — and, last week, rolled out a new programme aimed at reducing the monthly payment burden lower-income borrowers will face when payments resume this fall.

Many Democrats applauded that move, and want Mr Biden to keep working to provide help. In a letter sent to Mr Biden and first reported on by NBC News, the Democrats argue that working-class families need the relief promised by the blocked student debt plan to arrive “as soon as possible.”

“We urge you to continually find ways to use your authority to bring down student debt, address the rising cost of college, and make postsecondary education affordable for all students who choose that path,” the letter reads.

The letter’s signatories include Sen Elizabeth Warren and Rep Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York as well as many other members of the Democratic House and Senate caucuses.

Roughly 43 million Americans currently hold more than $1.75 trillion in student debt, a number that has rapidly increased in recent years as the cost of higher education balloons and real earnings and public investment in education fail to keep up.

England in the United Kingdom is the only other country in the world where residents have a similar student debt burden, though English student loans are all taken out through the government and can often be paid back at significantly lower interest rates than American borrowers must contend with.

In the US, as in the UK, not everyone who has student debt has a degree to show for it.

“Nearly one-third of Americans who hold student debt have no degree or credential,” the letter to Mr Biden reads. “Roughly 16 percent of borrowers — including almost one-third of senior citizens holding student debt — are in default, with disastrous consequences for their credit and financial health, including the garnishment of wages and government benefits.”

The Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the debt forgiveness plan could potentially complicate Mr Biden’s re-election pitch to younger voters who are more likely to be saddled with debt and have not had to make payments since the spring of 2020.

Those voters overwhelmingly supported Mr Biden during the 2020 general election, but his approval rating with 18 to 29-year-olds was below 40 per cent in April.