- Biden last April asked the Department of Education to write a memo about his ability to reduce student debt.
- Documents from October revealed that the memo had existed since April 2021 but had not yet been released.
- Lawmakers urged Biden to release the memo to provide certainty on broad student debt relief.
On April 1, 2021, President Joe Biden asked the Department of Education to prepare a memo on its legal ability to cancel student debt.
On Nov. 1, Insider received redacted documents from the Debt Collective — the nation’s top debtors union — that showed the memo had been around since April 5, 2021, and had been circulating among White House leaders the same day.
Now, a year after the memo was created and two student loan payment pause extensions later, borrowers and lawmakers want answers.
“While I welcome the extension of the student loan moratorium, I continue to believe that we owe the 43 million Americans with student loan debt to completely cancel that debt,” Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota said in a statement. communicated to Insider. “Unfortunately, a year after his promise, we have yet to see the administration’s promised memo on canceling student debt.”
When Biden was on the campaign trail, his intentions to handle the $1.7 trillion student debt crisis seemed clear. He promised voters he would approve $10,000 in student loan forgiveness for every federal borrower and said it would be a top priority for him in reforming long-suspended loan forgiveness programs.
Though he took action on the latter, the former remains unfulfilled, and borrowers and lawmakers are growing increasingly frustrated as Biden stalls on a promise that many voters are counting on.
In October, before the redacted documents were released, Omar led fellow Democrats in giving the president two weeks to deliver the memo. In January, she joined 84 of her colleagues in pushing not only for the release of the memo, but also for an extended pause on student loan payments, which Biden eventually implemented. last week until August 31.
But it’s been over a year, and Omar told Insider it’s high time for Biden to be transparent with his constituents.
“When Progressive Caucus leaders and I met with the president earlier this month, we emphasized the importance of not just suspending, but canceling student debt,” Omar said.
“The president has full authority to cancel this debt,” she added, “and we hope he does.”
When Insider asked for comment, a spokesperson replied, “The Department of Education continues to evaluate its options to implement broad debt cancellation through executive action.”
The White House has ‘chosen to sit idly by while families suffer financially’
Although the vast majority of the student debt memo was redacted before Insider received it, the documents revealed some information regarding the communication process within the administration surrounding the creation of the memo.
For example, an education department official wrote that based on internal emails from April 2021, the department would “likely prepare an updated version of the memo prepared in February,” suggesting that the administration could have stayed even longer on a memo.
Braxton Brewington, the Debt Collective’s press secretary, told Insider at the time that choosing not to post the memo was a “political decision,” and he reiterated that sentiment in a statement this month.
“A year has passed since the White House was made aware of their authority to broadly cancel student debt and yet they have chosen to sit idly by while families suffer financially,” Brewington said. “Clearly the blocking of student debt forgiveness is not due to faulty legal analysis, but rather a lack of political will – which makes even less sense because the majority of Americans support the cancellation of student debt. It’s time for Biden to act.”
After Biden extended the student loan payment pause for the fourth time last week, Insider reported that neither Democratic nor Republican lawmakers were happy with the relief.
While the GOP wanted general relief to end, Democrats wanted even more relief, saying if Biden could keep extending the hiatus, there was no reason he couldn’t cancel the debt. student loans and make permanent reforms to the student loan industry.
It is unclear if more relief will come for student loan borrowers once September rolls around.
‘Glad to see the President extend the moratorium on student loans’, Omar wrote on Twitter. “Once that extension expires, he should extend it again. And then after that, again. And then again, and again… actually, you know what, why not just cancel it?”