Plan B: Biden Admin preps for another showdown over student debt cancellation
With Democrats pushing for all-out student debt relief, the Department of Education is planning further negotiations on expanding financial aid to more borrowers.
The department will hold a fourth “rulemaking session” on Feb. 22-23 to discuss which borrowers may qualify for student debt cancellation. Specifically, the negotiations center around student debt forgiveness for borrowers experiencing “financial hardship.”
Known as Plan B, this is the Biden administration’s second attempt at comprehensive debt relief—the first of which was struck down by the Supreme Court last summer.
At the time, the court ruled that Biden’s $400 billion loan cancellation plan was unconstitutional because it exceeded the power of the executive branch.
A source familiar with the matter informed Business Insider that the new round of negotiations will remain within the limits of the Supreme Court’s decision.
That decision appears to have provided the government with more certainty on how to navigate the murky waters of student debt forgiveness. Under Biden’s tenure, the Education Department successfully canceled $136 billion worth of loans for more than 3.7 million Americans.
As Creditnews reported, the Biden administration also fast-tracked debt cancellation for millions of borrowers who qualified under the SAVE Plan.
There’s a reason why Biden is pushing hard for student debt relief: 2024 is an election year, and he promised more than 40 million borrowers they’d receive assistance.
The clock is ticking.
Racing against the clock
Not everyone is pleased with the government’s progress on student debt relief.
“Over 40 million people were promised cancellation, a number that dwarfs the 3.7 million who have received some measure of relief,” said Astra Taylor, co-founder of the Debt Collective, a union for debtors.
As Bloomberg reports, young voters don’t think the president has gone far enough to address the student debt crisis.
In a Bloomberg/Morning Consult poll, 43% of Gen Z voters in swing states said Biden is doing “too little” to address student debt. More than a quarter (27%) of all voters in these key states agreed.
According to Eli Yokley, a political analyst with Morning Consult, Biden is “making no gains among groups he is going to need to pull off a victory” in 2024. And here’s where Biden faces the biggest conundrum.
The same poll showed that Gen X and baby boomer voters generally agree that the president has already done too much around student debt cancellation—which means they don’t want more taxpayer dollars going toward debt relief.
As it turns out, the issue of student loans isn’t just about whether they should be canceled. The resumption of student loan payments this past fall has also weighed on voters.
Political “rug pull”?
The Intercept analyzed polling data from research firm Positive Sum Strategies to determine how young voters straddled with student debt plan to vote in 2024.
“As of November 30, voters burdened with student debt under the age of 45 prefer Trump over Biden by 3 percentage points,” wrote Ari Rabin-Havt, the former deputy campaign manager for Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Rabin-Havt likened the resumption of student loan payments to a political “rug pull”—meaning, loan repayments took away a benefit that voters previously enjoyed.
“The taxpayers who were benefiting now feel poorer than when they started because they are forced to cover a shortfall once covered by the government,” he wrote.
According to Creditnews’ real-time student debt tracker, the average student loan borrower is on the hook for between $200 and $299 in monthly payments. That was money they got to keep during the three-and-a-half years of loan forbearance.
“While Biden could win back “rug pull” voters over the course of the campaign,” he “needs to do substantive work to bring these voters back into the fold,” Rabin-Havt concluded.