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Biden's so worried about 'canceling' debt he's ignored families who need to pay for college

Add this blunder to President Joe Biden’s long list of missteps: The Biden administration has been so focused on wiping out student loans that it’s forgotten about one of its core jobs – helping students secure the financial aid needed to pay for college in the first place.

The past three years, Biden and his Department of Education have had plenty of time to implement an overhaul to federal financial aid and the headache-inducing form college applicants must fill out to receive assistance: the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

In late 2020, Congress passed bipartisan legislation (signed by former President Donald Trump) that required the changes to simplify the complex FAFSA form.

Unfortunately, Biden’s rollout of this “simpler” process has been a disaster.

Glitches in the FAFSA website and in processing the forms have led to significant delays in families receiving their financial aid packages, which are a combination of loans and grants. This is leading to much anxiety for millions of students and parents as colleges typically set a deadline of May 1 to commit to their institutions.

Students obviously don’t want to make that decision before they know how affordable (or unaffordable) it will be.

College administrators are similarly in a tough position. And it’s not clear how soon all this will be fixed.

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'Students and colleges in limbo'

The Biden administration's bungling has led the Government Accountability Office to open an investigation into what’s gone wrong.

Congressional Republicans and Democrats alike have voiced their displeasure with the new FAFSA rollout.

Senate Democrats have said that “operational glitches and delays in the rollout of this new version of the FAFSA form has left students and colleges in limbo and locked many families out of the process altogether.”

Another huge concern: Students of color and those from low-income families are facing the largest obstacles created by the Biden administration's blunder.

“I think that's probably the implication that I’m most concerned about – the marginal students who will be discouraged from enrolling,” Beth Akers, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), told me. “And it can change their life trajectory in a pretty big way.”

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Biden's too focused on campaign ploys

Perhaps Biden should have spent less time the past few years obsessed with student loan cancellation (which was never sanctioned by Congress) and more time putting in place the new financial aid and FAFSA changes (that did come from Congress).

During his term, Biden has plowed ahead to fulfill campaign promises of debt “forgiveness” that he knew he didn’t have the authority to achieve.

President Joe Biden said his latest cancellation of student loan debt will be life changing for borrowers.
President Joe Biden said his latest cancellation of student loan debt will be life changing for borrowers.

Remember that student debt doesn’t magically disappear – it becomes the responsibility of all taxpayers.

Biden’s first big loan cancellation program was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court last year. That didn’t stop him, however. He has continued to do essentially the same thing but through different means that will be harder to challenge in court.

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Yet, Biden's new tactics are just as legally dubious. Just this week, Biden announced another round of early debt cancellation for more than 150,000 borrowers, totaling $1.2 billion.

Biden made sure the emails that went out to borrowers looked like they came from him, too. It’s a blatant campaign ploy to buy votes in an election year where the president is struggling mightily in the polls.

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As AEI's Akers says, “Nobody is voting based on FAFSA implementation, but they may be voting based on whether they perceive that Biden followed through on his promise to deliver student loan cancellation.”

These misplaced priorities have now left millions of families in the lurch about whether they can afford to send their children to college. Some may forgo enrolling altogether.

And they should hold Biden accountable for their children's lost dreams and less-prosperous future.

Ingrid Jacques is a columnist at USA TODAY. Contact her at ijacques@usatoday.com or on X, formerly Twitter: @Ingrid_Jacques.

You can read diverse opinions from our Board of Contributors and other writers on the Opinion front page, on Twitter @usatodayopinion and in our daily Opinion newsletter.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden's FAFSA disaster leaves millions of kids in financial aid limbo