Biden Wants ‘Targeted’ Student Loan Cancellation — But What Does That Mean?

Biden Wants ‘Targeted’ Student Loan Cancellation — But What Does That Mean?

As advocates for student loan debtors proceed to press President Biden to enact broad student loan forgiveness, his administration has remained largely quiet about its particular intentions — however officers have supplied some clear alerts.

The administration has been reviewing the legality of broad student loan cancellation since April. While President Biden has proven help for some type of student debt cancellation, he has persistently expressed skepticism about wiping out $50,000 or extra in student loan debt for each borrower with out situations, as he has been urged to do by progressive Democrats in Congress and student loan borrower advocacy teams.

Biden has additionally expressed concern about whether or not he would have adequate authorized authority to behave. Student loan authorized students and advocacy teams have argued that the President does have the authority below federal regulation to unilaterally cancel student loan debt on a mass scale, however others have disagreed, and the speculation has by no means been examined.

Both President Biden and officers from his administration have pushed for a extra “targeted” method to student loan forgiveness — a phrase that has been utilized by administration officers repeatedly this yr, and as just lately as this month. But “targeted” has not been clearly outlined. Based on the Biden administration’s actions on student loan debt thus far, even a so-called “targeted” method to student debt cancellation may lead to widespread reduction for hundreds of thousands of student loan debtors. However, it may additionally fall far in need of what advocates hope the administration may do. Here’s what might be in retailer.

Executive Action To Cancel Student Loan Debt Under Existing Student Loan Forgiveness Programs

The Biden administration has the potential authority to offer extra widespread reduction to student loan debtors below present packages that already present student loan forgiveness:

  • The Borrower Defense To Repayment program was established to offer debt reduction to debtors who had been defrauded by their faculties, however tens of hundreds of functions have been held up for years amidst authorized and political wrangling, primarily in the course of the Trump administration. Biden’s Education Department has already acted to develop reduction to hundreds of debtors, leading to a whole bunch of hundreds of thousands of {dollars} in student loan forgiveness. The administration has just lately put in key pro-borrower figures with backgrounds in Borrower Defense in positions of authority on the Department of Education, which might be a sign that Biden intends to proceed an enlargement of reduction below this program.
  • The Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) discharge program permits student loan debtors who’re disabled to get their federal student loans worn out. But debtors should affirmatively apply for the reduction generally, which could be troublesome or inconceivable for individuals who stay with crippling disabilities. Advocates have argued that the Department of Education has adequate data out there via inter-governmental data sharing to mechanically cancel the federal student loan money owed of over 500,000 debtors.
  • The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) permits debtors employed by public and nonprofit organizations to get their loans forgiven after 10 years of service. But the PSLF program has sophisticated eligibility standards, and ongoing student loan servicing issues have contributed to a 98% denial charge for candidates. Advocates have argued that the President has the authority to calm down the necessities of the PSLF program, which may lead to billions of {dollars} in speedy student loan forgiveness. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona has expressed help for “fixing” the PSLF program.

Executive Action To Cancel Student Loan Debt, But Only For Some Borrowers

Several main student loan authorized specialists have argued that President Biden has broad authority below the Higher Education Act (HEA) to cancel student debt utilizing govt motion. Advocates of mass student loan forgiveness have additionally pointed to the HEROES Act — one other federal statute underlying monetary assist and student loan packages — as a possible authority throughout occasions of emergencies. Both former President Trump and President Biden relied on the HEROES Act for authority to make use of govt motion to droop billions of {dollars} in student loan curiosity after the unique CARES Act fee pause expired. Department of Education officers below former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, nonetheless, argued that widespread cancellation of student loans would transcend the President’s statutory authority below each the HEA and the HEROES Act.

Biden may nonetheless proceed to cancel student loan debt utilizing one or each of those statutory authorities, risking potential courtroom challenges. However, based mostly on his previous feedback expressing considerations that widespread student loan forgiveness would profit rich graduates of Ivy League faculties (even if such considerations would seem like unfounded), Biden could attempt to restrict reduction based mostly on sure standards, resembling a borrower’s earnings or the kind of faculty they attended.

Regulatory Action To Cancel Student Loan Debt

The Biden administration is transferring ahead with a probably huge rewrite of rules governing key federal student loan forgiveness packages together with Borrower Defense to Repayment, Public Service Loan Forgiveness, the Total and Permanent Disability Discharge program, and income-driven reimbursement plans. The administration has made it clear that its intent is to reform these packages to enhance “borrowers’ access to benefits that reduce the burden of federal student loans” and to offer further avenues for “targeted discharges” of federal student loan debt.

Changing how these packages work may finally lead to substantial reduction for a large swath of debtors. But the regulatory rewrite course of — known as negotiated rulemaking — is painfully gradual, involving a number of rounds of public hearings and consensus-building. It might be one to 2 years earlier than the method is full and new rules are finalized.

Legislative Action To Cancel Student Loan Debt

The Biden administration would doubtless cooperate with Congress to enact extra far-reaching student loan reforms. For instance, the Senate has unveiled a student loan chapter reform invoice that will calm down the strict guidelines that make discharging federal student loans in chapter extraordinarily troublesome. The invoice has uncommon, bipartisan help, and Biden has expressed current help for student loan chapter reform, making it doubtless that he would signal the invoice if it passes Congress. Biden has additionally expressed help for laws that will develop reduction below Public Service Loan Forgiveness.


These particular person actions on student loan debt may appear minimal at first look, however taken collectively, they would supply very actual, and probably widespread, reduction to hundreds of thousands of student loan debtors. Some debtors may see nicely over $50,000 in student loan forgiveness, since a number of present packages — together with PSLF, the TPD discharge program, and Borrower Defense to Repayment — haven’t any caps or limits on reduction. Furthermore, these actions would permit the Biden administration to say it’s offering “targeted” student loan reduction to those that want it most, whereas avoiding potential political blowback and authorized challenges that might end result from unilateral mass student loan cancellation.

But such an method could not fulfill probably the most ardent supporters of broad cancellation of student debt. Relief could be supplied in matches and begins, and lots of debtors wouldn’t see any advantages earlier than the expiration of the student loan fee pause (which President Biden just lately prolonged to January 31, 2022); that might result in hardship and default for a lot of. Some debtors — particularly, non-public student loan debtors, Parent PLUS debtors, and debtors who work within the non-public sector — could not see a lot reduction in any respect via these potential “targeted” actions. As a end result, advocacy teams for debtors will doubtless proceed to aggressively push for mass student loan cancellation.

Further Reading

Biden Administration Starts Overhaul Of Student Loan Forgiveness, Income Based Repayment Programs

New Details Emerge On Student Loan Servicing Changes: Multiple Transfers, Prolonged Upheaval Expected

Huge Student Loan Servicing Shakeup: This Major Loan Servicer Is Ending Its Contract

Did The Biden Administration Just Send A Big Signal On Student Loan Cancellation?

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