Is Student Loan Forgiveness Still on Biden’s Agenda?

State of the Union address omits forgiveness, discouraging borrowers

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address during a joint session of Congress in the U.S. Capitol's House Chamber March 01, 2022 in Washington, DC.

Win McNamee / Getty Images

President Joe Biden’s hour-long State of the Union address Tuesday night covered a lot of ground, but for those with student loans, there was a glaring omission—any mention of forgiving some of that debt. 

Biden, who called for every borrower to get up to $10,000 of their student loans forgiven while campaigning for president in 2020, is under pressure from borrowers and their advocates—including progressive lawmakers in his party—to make that happen. Some have called on Biden to bypass the legislative process by invoking his executive authority, in recognition that bills have gone nowhere, even with a narrowly divided Congress

The fact that the issue didn’t even get mentioned in the president’s inaugural State of the Union speech—traditionally a soapbox for presidents to promote their agendas in a kitchen-sink fashion—is frustrating activists.

“We remained hopeful that President Biden would acknowledge the $1.7 trillion student debt crisis that affects over 45 million Americans—we are disappointed that he failed to do so,” the Student Debt Crisis Center, a group that’s been advocating for student loan cancellation, said in a statement. “As a candidate, President Biden promised to cancel student debt, and the State of the Union, which covers a range of issues, was the perfect time for him to share his plan to get it done.”

The Young Invincibles, a progressive advocacy group for young adults, said Biden “fell short for students.” 

The “failure to deliver” on loan cancellation and other education initiatives “represents promises deferred for millions of students,” Kristin McGuire, the group’s executive director, said in a statement. 

Borrowers reacting to the speech on social media were discouraged by the omission. Some said it was a sign that there would be no forgiveness, while others held on to hope he would still push the issue during the upcoming mid-term elections. The White House didn’t respond to requests for comment.

While Biden has not canceled federal student loans broadly, his administration has offered piecemeal loan relief to groups including disabled borrowers and public servants. The issue is becoming more pressing because the end of a pandemic-era freeze on payment and interest obligations is set to expire in May. 

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  1. White House. “2022 State of the Union Address.”

  2. Student Debt Crisis Center. “Statement: President Biden Overlooks Trillion-Dollar Student Debt Crisis in State of the Union Address.”

  3. Young Invincibles. “Press Releases - Biden Delivers SOTU Address, Higher Education Notably Absent.”

  4. “COVID-19 Emergency Relief and Federal Student Aid.”

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