WASHINGTON — Representative Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, issued the following statement on President Biden’s executive order canceling of $20,000 of federal student loan debt for Pell Grant recipients and $10,000 of federal debt for other borrowers, reaching a total of 43 million borrowers:

“President Biden’s action today on student debt cancellation that will bring relief to 43 million people is a massive step in the right direction. The Congressional Progressive Caucus has made this one of our top priorities for executive action and we have been doggedly pursuing this, including a detailed discussion with the President on the need for debt cancellation on March 30 of this year, where the President indicated his support for some action directly to CPC Executive Board members.

“While not as high as we called for, this crucial step from the President goes beyond his campaign promise and responds to calls from the CPC, the Black Caucus, the Hispanic Caucus, and millions across the country to address the crippling issue of student debt, now totaling approximately $1.7 trillion — more than even credit card debt in this country. With the President’s action, approximately 20 million people will see their loans fully canceled, and an additional 23 million will see relief with a portion of their debt canceled. In addition, the President’s order will cap interest for current and future loans at 5 percent of income, half of the current rate. This means that those who still have a balance on their loan after today’s forgiveness will be able to lower their average annual payment by more than $1,000 for current and future borrowers. 

“Student debt cancellation is a racial justice issue. 90 percent of Black students and 72 percent of Latino students have loans, they borrow at higher rates to attend college, and are more likely than white borrowers to owe more debt 12 years later. By canceling $10,000 of debt and $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients, the administration is making real progress toward closing the racial wealth gap.

“Canceling student loan debt is also essential to lowering monthly costs for Americans across the country who are struggling to keep up with rising prices of housing and food. This action demonstrates the President’s commitment to using executive powers to fight for working families and increase opportunity for all. The impact of this cannot be understated: 97 percent of people with federal student loans are low- and middle-income, and 40 percent of them never were able to finish their degree. These loans are holding people back from buying homes, investing in their communities, and starting businesses. They are following millions of seniors into retirement and weighing down our economy.  

“The President has already canceled $10 billion in student debt through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, and today’s order also seeks to expand that successful program further.  We are also pleased to see the pause on payments extended through December 2022, but we encourage the White House to ensure that repayments do not begin until debt cancellation can reach the people who need it. Under President Biden, no one has had to make a payment on a federal student loan. If millions have to restart these payments before the forgiveness reaches them, it would only increase the anxiety and hardship Americans are feeling amid other rising costs.  

“We applaud the President for this critically necessary and unprecedented action that lifts up working people. We look forward to working closely with the White House to ensure quick relief to 43 million people through this Executive Order.”

Progressive Caucus members have led the congressional advocacy to cancel student debt, including naming it as one of the key priorities in the CPC’s Executive Action Agenda

  • CPC members Rep. Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Rep. Maxine Waters (CA-43), Rep. Alma Adams (NC-12), andCPC Whip Rep. Ilhan Omar (MN-05) introduced a resolution urging President Biden to cancel $50,000 in student loan debt per borrower.

  • In March, Rep. Jayapal, CPC Whip Rep. Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Rep. Pressley, and Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), (D-Calif.), and Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), led nearly 100 colleagues in calling on President Biden urging the administration to extend the pause on federally-held student loan payments until at least the end of the year and to provide meaningful student debt cancellation.

  • On the 30th of same month, Rep. Jayapal, CPC Deputy Chair Katie Porter (CA-45), Rep. Omar, and CPC Chairs Emeritus Mark Pocan (WI-02), Barbara Lee (CA-13), and Raúl Grijalva (AZ-03), met with President Biden to discuss the CPC’s executive action agenda, including pressing for debt cancellation.

  • This followed additional advocacy from Rep. Jayapal, CPC Deputy Whip Rep. Mark Takano (CA-41) and Senators Senator Warren, Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), urging Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, urging the Department of Education to swiftly discharge the loans of borrowers defrauded by predatory for-profit colleges and universities. 

  • Reps. Jayapal, Pressley, Omar, Porter, Sens. Warren and Schumer called in a letter to the Department of Education calling for it to release the memo outlining the Biden administration’s legal authority to cancel federal student loan debt and immediately cancel up to $50,000 of debt for Federal student loan borrowers. 

  • Rep. Pressley, and Sens. Warren and Schumer released new analysis showing that resuming student loan payments would strip $85 billion every year from the economy.