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Common Dreams - January 4, 2022

"Taking this step would be a much-needed victory that could stoke enthusiasm for Democrats heading into the midterm elections."

Two weeks after the White House announced—following intense pressure from economic justice advocates and progressive lawmakers—that the moratorium on federal student loan payments would be extended until May, activists are beginning the new year with renewed calls for President Joe Biden to cancel student debt by executive order.

In a tweet late Monday, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, pointed out that "student debt cancellation is supported by more than 60% of Americans."

While the Biden administration has claimed it is still investigating the president's authority to cancel student loan debt for all 45 million borrowers in the U.S., legal experts say the Higher Education Act of 1965 clearly empowers Biden to direct Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to do so.

Section 432(a) of the law states that the education secretary has the authority to modify loan terms and "enforce, pay, compromise, waive, or release any right, title, claim, lien, or demand, however acquired, including any equity or any right of redemption."

As Common Dreams reported last year, the Debt Collective, a union for student loan debtors, went as far as to draft an executive order for the president ordering Cardona to "cancel all obligations to repay federal student loans," an action which would save an average of nearly $500 per month for borrowers and would boost the gross domestic product by $86 billion to $108 billion per year.

"President Biden, grab a pen and give the people what they want, need, and deserve," said Jayapal in her Monday night tweet.

As Vox reported last week, the student debt payment freeze which was implemented in March 2020 by Congress as the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S. and has been extended several times since has offered concrete benefits for many Americans.

A woman identified as Sarah R. told Vox that without her $650 monthly student loan payment during the moratorium, she was able to go on maternity leave when she had a baby last year. Cheryl Patton, who owes $51,000 in federal student loan debt after obtaining a Master's degree in clinical mental health, said she has been able to save money, complete home repairs, travel to visit family members, and pay for medical care she had been putting off.

"It’s hard to save money when you have a student loan payment every month that's equivalent to a BMW payment," Patton told Vox. "I work a part-time job just to pay my student loans every month, which means that I get to spend less time with my kids, less time with my family; it's just what I have to do to survive."

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) joined Jayapal Monday in demanding student debt cancellation, calling on Biden to end the loan system that is "weighing our young people down before they can get on their feet." ...
Read full report at Common Dreams