By December 2020, the aggregate total of U.S. student debt saw a more than 100 percent increase over the previous decade. President Biden has clarified his commitment to student loan debt relief, but what loans has he actually canceled?
With the monetary value of the relief in the billions, here's how Biden has used his pen as a weapon against student debt.
Can a president cancel student loan debt?
Biden inquired in April about his legal authority to cancel student debt. Technically, he can bypass Congress, but he runs the risk of ostracizing members whose support he needs on a range of other issues. There are also questions about how much debt Biden can cancel per student, so there's a lot of gray areas.
Back when Senator Elizabeth Warren was running for president, legal experts chimed in on her goal of student loan debt relief. They said that such executive action is "lawful and permissible."
The legality of presidential student loan debt relief gets simpler when we look at for-profit institutions that have defrauded students. Recently, 18,000 former students of the now-defunct ITT Technical Institute became eligible for loan relief due to the fraudulent atmosphere of the schools. This was a step that the U.S. Department of Education has been working toward in increments.
Biden has canceled at least $2.8 billion worth of student loans so far
Less than six months since his inauguration, Biden has managed to forgive at least $2.8 billion in student loans. This took place in four parts:
In March, 72,000 student loan borrowers who previously had loans partially canceled received full forgiveness to the tune of $1 billion.
Students with total and permanent disability received an aggregate debt relief of $1.3 billion which was split among 41,000 people.
Recently, 18,000 former students of now-closed ITT Tech schools received $500 million worth of student loan forgiveness.
The fourth part doesn't have a clear monetary value. Biden forgave 1.1 million students who defaulted on their Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) loans, although the total value of this forgiveness hasn't been announced.
What's next for Biden's student loan relief plan?
With Biden's efforts to forgive student loans in increments, there are people who support the mission and those that feel it's a freebie. Whatever side you're on, the reality is that Americans are drowning in debt for the prospect of education and stable employment.
Biden will likely continue to partner with the U.S. Department of Education to provide relief for more defrauded students who attended for-profit institutions. Of course, this targeted approach isn't the overarching cancellation that many Americans are hoping for.
Students from the general public might have to wait to get loan relief, but it's clear that the Biden administration will continue to chip away at it over the course of his term through targeted cancellation.