Extending the Student Loan Pause Is Back on the Table

Biden is mulling whether to extend the reprieve past Jan. 31

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks during the daily press briefing at the White House December 21, 2021.

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Things might be looking up for people with federal student loans: The White House on Tuesday left the door open to extending the freeze on payments and interest beyond Jan. 31. 

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki indicated at a press briefing that an extension was possible when asked about a Politico report that quoted a Department of Education spokesperson on the subject. The report said the department would announce later this week whether the forbearance period giving borrowers a reprieve on their loan obligations during the pandemic would be extended for a fifth time amid yet another surge in coronavirus cases.

"The president has not made a decision yet,” Psaki said.

Psaki had a distinctly different tone just last week, when she said the administration was focused on helping borrowers resume payments smoothly, even if it was also assessing the impact of the new omicron variant of COVID-19. In August, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona called the latest extension “final” and said a definitive end date would allow borrowers to plan ahead for what in many cases may be their first payments in almost two years. 

“We are extremely encouraged to hear that President Biden is considering an extension of the federal student loan payment pause,” Persis Yu, policy director of the Student Borrower Protection Center, an advocacy group, said in a statement. “Prior to the pandemic, federal student loans were crushing 43 million student loan borrowers, and the payment suspension has been vital to ensuring that those very borrowers can keep their head above water.”

Student loan advocates and progressive lawmakers have turned up the pressure on the Biden administration as the repayment deadline approaches, urging him to not only extend the reprieve but use what they said is his executive authority to cancel at least $10,000 of student loan debt for every borrower.

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