On Thursday, August 27, the U.S. Department of Education added 115,000 more borrowers to its student loan debt forgiveness program. The department announced they would forgive $1.1 billion in debt for the borrowers.
The student debt is being forgiven for a very specific group of student loan borrowers — those who went to ITT Technical Institute, a for-profit school that no longer exists and that has been regularly accused of pushing vulnerable students into expensive loans.
The students who will have their debt forgiven didn’t finish their degrees and left the school after March 31, 2008, per CNBC.
The amount of debt that the Biden administration has now forgiven for student borrowers now amounts to nearly $10 billion — $9.5 billion, to be exact — for some 563,000 borrowers.
The move to cancel debt for a specific subset of borrowers (who no doubt sorely need it) is yet another move from both the Biden admin and his Department of Education to cut down debt for specific groups of borrowers rather than canceling it outright.
The Biden administration asked the DoE to look at whether or not they had the federal authority to cancel large swathes of debt for all borrowers. While that DoE memo still has not been made public or come back, the idea that the Biden admin can’t cancel debt wholesale while they are doing the very same thing, albeit for certain borrowers, seems dubious at best.
Most Democratic lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, have called on Biden to cancel $50,000 in student debt for every single person who owes it.
The student debt problem is a massive one in this country: there’s around $1.5 trillion in outstanding student debt in the United States, and the average amount of student loan per borrower is about $40,000. That means that many, many Americans would have their lives fundamentally changed by a massive cancellation of student debt, and be able to engage in traditional middle-class behaviors like home-ownership or investing in their retirements. And since over half of Americans support student debt cancellation, it seems like a smart political move, too.
Hopefully, these moves are a way of rearing up to the big bad of student debt cancellation rather than refusing to help people who have had to put off having children or engaging in other parts of the economy because of the debt that is dragging them down.