Schumer, Warren, Jayapal, Pressley, Omar, Porter Urge President Biden To Deliver On Promise To Cancel Student Debt

More Than 80 Bicameral Lawmakers Call For Immediate Release Of Memo On Legal Authority To Use Executive Action To Cancel Student Debt And Use Authority To Cancel Up To $50,000 For Federal Borrowers

January 26, 2022

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-NY),  Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and United States Representatives Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Katie Porter (D-CA) led more than 80 Senate and House colleagues calling on the Biden administration to release the Department of Education’s (ED) memo outlining the administration’s legal authority to cancel federal student loan debt and immediately cancel up to $50,000 of debt for Federal student loan borrowers. 

“Canceling $50,000 of student debt would give 36 million Americans permanent relief and aid the millions more who will eventually resume payments their best chance at thriving in our recovering economy. In light of high COVID-19 case counts and corresponding economic disruptions, restarting student loan payments without this broad cancellation would be disastrous for millions of borrowers and their families,”  wrote the lawmakers.

While the lawmakers applauded President Biden’s decision to extend the federal student loan payment pause as the Omicron variant spreads, they are urging the President to do more to provide permanent relief for millions of borrowers and help families avoid financial hardship as the economy recovers. During the payment pause, borrowers have been able to use their student loan payments to pay down other debt, support their families, and make ends meet. Once the pause ends, over a quarter of borrowers expect at least one-third of their income will go towards student loans — and $85 billion would be stripped from the national economy over the next year. Canceling $50,000 of student loan debt per borrower would help millions of Americans afford homes and access important paths to the middle class, help narrow the racial and gender wealth gap in Black and Brown communities that have been exacerbated by discriminatory policies and systemic barriers, increase borrowers’ ability to retire, and support a strong economic recovery.

President Biden has the legal authority to cancel student debt under section 432(a) of the Higher Education Act of 1965. In April 2021, the White House promised to release their own memo on their ability to cancel student debt through administrative action but they have yet to publicly release the details of the memo.

The lawmakers continued: “Publicly releasing the memo outlining your existing authority on canceling student debt and broadly doing so is crucial to making a meaningful difference in the lives of current students, borrowers, and their families. It has been widely reported that the Department of Education has had this memo since April 5, 2021 after being directed to draft it.

We urge you to use every tool at your disposal to deliver relief to the millions of families inspired by your proposal to make a debt-free college degree within their reach by eliminating up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt for all families before payments resume.”

The letter was signed in the Senate by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Cory A. Booker (D-NJ), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Raphael G. Warnock (D-GA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tina Smith (D-MN), and Richard J. Durbin (D-IL).

The letter was signed in the House by Representatives Alma S. Adams, PhD, Nanette Diaz Barragán, Karen Bass, Earl Blumenauer, Jamaal Bowman, Ed.D., Brendan F. Boyle, Tony Cárdenas, Andre Carson, Judy Chu, David N. Cicilline, Yvette Clarke, J. Luis Correa, Danny K. Davis, Madeleine Dean, Mark DeSaulnier, Veronica Escobar, Adriano Espaillat, Dwight Evans, Ruben Gallego, Jesus G. “Chuy” García, Jimmy Gomez, Raúl M. Grijalva, Jahana Hayes, Sheila Jackson Lee, Sara Jacobs, Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Mondaire Jones, Kaiali‘i Kahele, Ro Khanna, Ann Kirkpatrick, John B. Larson, Al Lawson, Barbara Lee, Andy Levin, Ted W. Lieu, Alan Lowenthal, Carolyn B. Maloney, James P. McGovern, Grace Meng, Jerrold Nadler, Grace F. Napolitano,  Marie Newman, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Frank Pallone, Jimmy Panetta, Donald M. Payne, Jr., Lucille Roybal-Allard, Linda T. Sánchez, Jan Schakowsky, Adam Schiff, Terri A. Sewell, Albio Sires, Darren Soto, Mark Takano, Rashida Tlaib, Benny G. Thompson, Ritchie Torres, Juan Vargas, Nydia M. Velázquez, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Peter Welch, Nikema Williams, and Frederica S. Wilson.

Leader Schumer has been a fierce advocate for student borrowers and has been calling for up to $50,000 in student debt cancellation to boost our economy, help close the racial wealth gap for borrowers, and put an end to predatory practices that harm and trap borrowers in years of debt. 

  • September 17, 2020: Schumer and Warren introduced a resolution to cancel up to $50k in federal student loan debt
  • November 24, 2020: Standing at Nassau Community College with students and local officials, Schumer pushed resolution to cancel up to $50k of federal student loan debt
  • December 4, 2020: Schumer/Warren release Blavity Op-ed to call for use of Executive branch authority to cancel up to $50k in federal student loan debt on day one of the new Administration
  • December 7, 2020: Standing in Brooklyn with Representatives-elect, Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), Mondaire Jones (D-NY), Ritchie Torres (D-NY), and local students, Schumer pushed his plan to cancel up to $50,000 in debt for federal student loan borrowers
  • February 4, 2021: Schumer/Warren/Pressley reintroduced a resolution to cancel up to $50k in federal student loan debt. Sent out press release and held student debt presser with Senators Warren, Representatives Pressley, Adams, Omar, and Jones.
  • February 17, 2021: Schumer/Warren release joint statement pushing Biden Admin to cancel $50k in federal student loan debt
  • March 15, 2021: Schumer makes floor remarks highlighting the benefits for current and former students in the American Rescue Plan – including making student loan forgiveness tax-free through December 2025
  • March 15, 2021: Schumer/Warren/Menendez hold press call to discuss ARP provision that makes student loan forgiveness tax-free, ensuring borrowers whose debt is fully or partially forgiven are not burdened with surprise taxes
  • March 17, 2021: Schumer appears on the Late Late Show with James Corden. Mentions the resolution with Warren to call on Biden to forgive up to $50k in student loans.
  • March 17, 2021: On phone call with NY college students, Schumer pushed resolution to cancel up to $50k of federal student loan debt
  • March 18, 2021: Schumer interview with Brian Tyler Cohen. Mentions resolution with Warren on canceling up to $50k of federal student loan debt
  • April 1, 2021: Schumer joins Warren and Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona for a roundtable discussion to listen as student loan borrowers shared their stories about the impact of student debt on their lives
  • April 16, 2021: Schumer holds an event at Hunter College with veterans and calls on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 of federal student loan debt
  • May 10, 2021: Schumer and executive director of Common Defense, Jose Vasquez, pen op-ed titled: “Cancelling Student Debt Keeps Our Promise to Veterans”
  • June 23, 2021: Schumer makes floor remarks urging the Biden Administration to extend the pause on student loan payments
  • June 23, 2021: Schumer, Warren, Pressley, Courtney lead bicameral letter calling Biden to extend the pause on student loan payments through the winter
  • July 27, 2021: Schumer makes floor remarks urging the Biden Administration to extend the pause on federal student loan repayments until next spring
  • July 27, 2021: Schumer and Student Debt Crisis executive director, Natalia Abrams, pen USA Today Opinion piece titled: “Biden Should Extend Student Loan Payment Pause And Cancel $50,000 For Borrowers”
  • August 6, 2021: Schumer, Warren, and Pressley released statement on Biden administration extending the pause on federally-held student loan payments, but continue to push for the cancellation of up to $50,000 of student debt
  • September 21, 2021: Schumer speaks at The State of Student Debt Virtual Summit and renews his call for President Joe Biden to forgive up to $50,000 in student debt for all borrowers through executive action
  • October 15, 2021: Schumer renewed his call for up to $50,000 in debt cancellation per borrower during “Scared to Debt,” an event hosted by the University of Southern California’s Casden Institute and School of Cinematic Arts
  • October 26, 2021: Schumer speaks with Mike Alfaro, a prominent Latino digital influencer, to discuss the importance of student debt cancellation among Latino borrowers
  • November 3, 2021: Schumer, Padilla, and UnidosUS President and CEO Janet Murguia host an Instagram Live to discuss the impact that student debt has on racial wealth gaps and push the Biden Administration to cancel student debt
  • December 8, 2021: Senator Warren, along with Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) and Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) released new analysis showing that resuming student loan payments would strip $85 billion every year from the economy.