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Biden plans to cancel student loan debt, 23 million Americans may be impacted

Biden plans to cancel student loan debt, 23 million Americans may be impacted
US President Joe Biden waves as he walks across the South Lawn of the White House to depart by Marine One, in Washington, DC, USA, 13 March 2024. Biden travels to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to deliver remarks on the economy and to attend a campaign event. EPA-EFE/MICHAEL REYNOLDS

MADISON, Wisconsin, April 8 (Reuters) - President Joe Biden announced on Monday plans to ease student debt that would benefit at least 23 million Americans, addressing a key issue for young voters whose support he needs as he seeks re-election in November.

By Steve Holland and Stephanie Kelly

The plans, which the Democratic president detailed in Madison, Wisconsin, include cancelling up to $20,000 of accrued and capitalized interest for borrowers, regardless of income, which Biden’s administration estimates would eliminate the entirety of that interest for 23 million borrowers.

Progressive voters, whom Biden hopes will support him against Republican challenger Donald Trump, have long urged the White House to address student loan debt. Biden’s administration has taken a string of actions despite the U.S. Supreme Court blocking his initial plan last year.

The issue remains high on the agenda of younger voters, many of whom have concerns about Biden’s foreign policy on the war in Gaza and fault him for not achieving greater debt forgiveness. Republicans have called Biden’s student loan forgiveness approach an overreach of his authority and an unfair benefit to college-educated borrowers while other borrowers received no such relief.

Biden’s new plans include automatically cancelling debt for borrowers who are eligible for certain forgiveness programs, who entered repayment decades ago, who enrolled in low financial value programs, or who are experiencing hardship.

This relief can be life changing,” Biden said in Madison, just as the total solar eclipse in North America was gracing the region. “Folks, I will never stop delivering student loan relief for hard-working Americans… It’s for the good of our economy.”

He added that if he is re-elected in November’s presidential election, he would push hard to make community college free.

If the latest plans are finalized following a public comment period, they would take effect as early as this fall, White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters in a call detailing the plans. Combined with the administration’s previous actions, they would benefit more than 30 million Americans, Jean-Pierre added.

U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, the top Republican on the Senate education panel, said such “loan schemes” simply transfer the cost of the debt onto others.

“This is an unfair ploy to buy votes before an election and does absolutely nothing to address the high cost of education that puts young people right back into debt,” Cassidy wrote in a statement.

To date, the administration has said it has approved $146 billion in student debt relief for 4 million Americans.

As of June 2023, approximately 43.4 million student loan recipients had $1.63 trillion in outstanding loans, according to the Federal Student Aid website.

“We’re delivering as much relief as possible for as many borrowers as possible, as quickly as possible,” U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said.

Biden has vowed to continue pushing student debt relief to as many borrowers as possible following the Supreme Court’s decision blocking his earlier plan to cancel hundreds of billions of dollars in debt, and administration officials said they studied the 6-3 ruling in crafting the new plans.

Other administration officials were set to tout the new plans in events across the United States on Monday, including Vice President Kamala Harris in Philadelphia.

(Reporting by Steve Holland and Stephanie Kelly; additional reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Will Dunham, Sonali Paul and Marguerita Choy)

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