Joe Biden may be changing his tune on massive student loan forgiveness.
During an interview with Politco on Thursday, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain confirmed the president is exploring his options on canceling a large chunk of debt held by federal student loan borrowers. Klain said Biden has asked Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona to prepare a memo that outlines his potential legal authority to nix up to $50,000 in student debt per borrower.
“Hopefully we’ll see that in the next few weeks … He’ll look at that legal authority, he’ll look at the policy issues around that, and then he’ll make a decision,” Klain said. “He hasn’t made a decision on that either way. In fact, he hasn’t yet gotten the memos that he needs to start to focus on that decision.”
Biden previously said he will not support massive student loan forgiveness, despite mounting pressure from congressional Democrats. The president reiterated his stance during a CNN town hall back in February, when he was asked about the possibility of canceling up to $50,000 in student loan debt per borrower.
“I will not make that happen,” Biden said during the Milwaukee event. “… I’m prepared to write off a $10,000 debt, but not 50 because I don’t think I have the authority to do it.”
The president said he was also hesitant to forgive large sums of student debt because it may disproportionately benefit those who went to elite schools.
“It depends on whether or not you go to a private university or public university,” Biden added. “It depends on the idea that I say to a community, ‘I’m going to forgive the debt, the billions of dollars of debt, for people who have gone to Harvard and Yale and Penn.”
According to the Federal Reserve, there are about 40 million people within the country with outstanding student loan debt. As of Feb. 5, Americans collectively owed more than $1.7 trillion in student loans. Canceling $50,000 for each borrower would decrease the debt balance to $700 billion.
During a Thursday press conference in Massachusetts, congressional Democrats Elizabeth Warren and Ayanna Pressley called on POTUS to cancel $50,000 in student loan debt, saying he has the authority to do so under the Higher Education Act of 1965.
“Our economy would do better if all of the people who have student loan debt were able to get out and start their small businesses, able to buy homes, able to take jobs in public service,” Warren said. “If we’re going to take the position that if I didn’t already get it in the past, you can’t get it now, we’re never build anything. We wouldn’t have started Social Security. We wouldn’t have started Medicare.”