White House won’t give price tag for student loan plan

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

The White House is declining to give a price tag for President Biden’s decision to forgive student loan debts for millions of Americans amid attacks by Republicans that the plan will add to the deficit and increase inflation.

White House officials have spent the 24 hours since the forgiveness plan was announced skirting questions about its costs.

“Well, that that remains to be determined, and it will be a function of what percentage of eligible borrowers actually take up this opportunity,” domestic policy adviser Susan Rice, who helped lead the student loan forgiveness initiative, told reporters on Wednesday.

“I think it depends on the numbers. Like, you know, unfortunately — and we’re here to encourage as many people to take it up as possible — if 43 million borrowers take it up, that’ll be different than if 50 percent of those 43 million take it up,” she added.

But Rice was unable to give an estimate for the cost if all 43 million eligible Americans took advantage of the program.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Thursday also declined to offer a specific estimate.

“All of this when it comes to cost will also depend on how many of the loans canceled were actually expected to be repaid. It will depend on how many borrowers actually take up this opportunity before we have a real sense,” she said.

Jean-Pierre would also not commit to eventually releasing a cost estimate once officials had one, deferring to the Department of Education.

Instead of offering concrete estimates, Jean-Pierre focused repeatedly on the argument that the Biden administration’s efforts to reduce the deficit over the last year and a half helps offset any costs incurred by the student debt forgiveness program.

But the eventual cost of the program is one of a handful of lingering questions about it that the administration has been unable to answer a day after Biden announced the plan.

Biden on Wednesday announced his administration is forgiving up to $10,000 in federal student loan debt for borrowers making less than $125,000 annually, or married couples making less than $250,000. The administration is also forgiving $20,000 in loans for Pell Grant recipients, marking the largest forgiveness of the loans per individual to date.

The president made the announcement under pressure from progressive groups that had been pushing him to go much further in forgiving student debt. Biden weighed the decision for months, knowing he was likely to take criticism from the left and the right.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called the plan a “wildly unfair redistribution” of wealth in remarks on Twitter on Wednesday.

Other Republicans have said the cost on the loan forgiveness will be paid by taxpayers, including blue-collar workers who did not attend college.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Thursday mocked the White House for not providing an estimate.

Tags Biden Joe Biden Karine Jean-Pierre Mitch McConnell Student loan Student loan forgiveness Susan Rice
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