Biden Wants To Help Pay Some Student Loans, But There’s Pressure To Go Further

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President-elect Joe Biden delivered remarks in Wilmington, Delaware on Monday.

Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty

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Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty

What A Biden Presidency Could Mean For Education

It can be done — but should it be done? Some economists argue canceling student debt will boost the economy, freeing up younger people to start businesses, buy homes and even start families. Warren, in her presidential campaign proposal, cited arguments that debt forgiveness would reduce the racial wealth gap, reverse rural brain drain and allow more people to complete their educations. Activist groups like the Debt Collective go farther, arguing that student debt is wrong in principle. «We must return education to the status of a public good,» the organization says on its website.

Critics point out that people with college degrees usually earn more money than those who don’t have them. They say student debt cancellation is, in that sense, regressive, because it’s a form of economic aid targeted to people who are already at an advantage. Some commentators also see a partisan slant to debt forgiveness. That’s because white voters without a college degree are far more likely to vote Republican. And then there’s the moral hazard argument — that debt cancellation would tempt people to take out more student loans and act irresponsibly in the future.

Tying debt cancellation to the COVID-19 emergency, and targeting the economically distressed, as Biden is calling for, might reduce these kinds of criticisms.

And Biden coupled his endorsement of debt cancellation with the idea of lowering the cost of college through more federal aid going forward: «everything from community college, straight through to doubling Pell Grants, to making sure that we have access to free education for anyone [from households] making under $125,000 for four years of college,» he said.

His wife, Jill Biden, a community college professor, echoed the call for free community college at a remote keynote address she gave Monday to a group called College Promise, where she is the former honorary chair. College Promise supports and advocates for a network of 360 local free college programs across the country, which operate with a mixture of public and philanthropic support.

  • President-elect Biden’s policy priorities
  • debt relief
  • student loans
  • student loan debt


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