Biden keeps student loan debt out of his joint address

Student loan forgiveness was notably absent from President Biden’s first address before a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, overlooking mounting pressure from progressives for him to act on the issue. 

Biden has previously shot down calls by lawmakers to immediately cancel up to $50,000 in student loans, including from Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). He instead supports $10,000 in debt forgiveness. 

Advocates were disappointed with the lack of focus on the issue after calling for Biden to make student debt forgiveness a bigger priority in his next 100 days in office. 

“It’s upsetting that President Biden didn’t even mention student debt, let alone provide even a hint of recourse to the millions of student loan borrowers who are in crisis right now,” said Ross Floyd, organizing director at Student Action, a group that supports free college and the full cancellation of student debt. “After being denied some stimulus checks, what students really need is relief — especially coming out of this pandemic when we’re trying to jump-start our economy.”

The president’s speech did include nods toward other issues being pushed by progressives such as calling for policing reform, climate change action, pro-LGBTQ policies and pro-union policies. 

“Generally, the speech was excellent — focused on bold, progressive, popular policies on jobs, child care, climate and taxing the rich. Given that student debt cancellation was not in the speech, we hope the White House reaffirms their commitment to that campaign promise very soon in a credible way,” said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.

Student loan forgiveness was also left out of Biden’s American Families Plan, the second part of his more than $2 trillion infrastructure package that he unveiled during the speech. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee had called for forgiveness to be included in that proposal.

When it comes to education, Biden did announced that the American Families Plan would include two years of free community college and provisions to increase Pell Grants and investment in historically Black colleges and universities, tribal colleges and minority-serving institutions. 

Provisions for a debt-free four-year college degree or forgiveness for current loans were also not included in the proposal.

Tags Charles Schumer Joe Biden

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