Defense

GOP lawmakers worry Biden loan forgiveness could hurt military recruiting

Rep. Pat Fallon (R-Texas) leaves the House Chamber following the final vote of the week regarding the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act on Friday, March 18, 2022.
Greg Nash

A group of House GOP lawmakers is pushing President Biden to address concerns that his student loan forgiveness plan could kneecap military recruiting by making the GI Bill seem less valuable. 

In a letter led by Rep. Pat Fallon (R-Texas), the 19 House Republicans said they worry about the “unintended consequences” of Biden’s decision last month to cancel up to $20,000 of student loan debt per borrower, particularly “the negative impact this will surely have on our nation’s military and their ability to recruit and retain” talent. 

“By forgiving such a wide swath of loans for borrowers, you are removing any leverage the Department of Defense maintained as one of the fastest and easiest ways to pay for higher education,” according to the letter sent to the White House on Thursday. 

Biden in August announced plans to forgive up to $10,000 in federal student loan debt for millions of borrowers making less than $125,000 a year and $20,000 in canceled debt for those who received Pell Grants. The White House said the move would impact more than 40 million Americans.

Democratic leaders have lauded the move, though Republican lawmakers have called it an overreach and unfair for the vast majority of taxpayers.

The latest protest over the loan forgiveness points to the military, which for several years has struggled with meeting recruitment goals due to a robust labor market, competition for talent with the private sector and an ongoing decline in the number of young people who are both eligible and want to serve in the military. 

The Army is not expected to meet its active-duty recruitment goals this year, while Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps officials are expecting to meet their targets but only narrowly.  

“As the services try to adopt unique approaches to tackle their recruiting challenges, including historic bonuses, it feels like their legs are being cut out from underneath them,” the Republican lawmakers wrote of Biden’s plan.  

They asked the White House for information on whether the effect on military service was considered in the development of the loan cancellation decision and how the administration plans to “develop incentives to augment the loss of those who might join the military to help pay off student loans.” 

Under the widely used post-9/11 GI Bill, the military gives service members 36 months of in-state tuition as well as monthly housing stipends if they serve at least three years on active duty.

Tags Biden military recruitment Military service members Pat Fallon Student loan forgiveness
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