The Knight News, along with other student journalists statewide, was invited to a roundtable meeting with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, one of the leading Democratic Senators behind the push to offer $50,000 of student loan forgiveness per borrower. Here, Senator Schumer spoke about his national plan to address student loan debt and what it would look like for millions of students across the country.
The push for student loan forgiveness comes as student loan debt continues to pile up across the country, but especially in New York. We are plagued by student loan debt more than any other state; according to Senator Schumer, 2.4 million New Yorkers currently owe 90 billion dollars in student loans. Of that total, the average New York City resident holds more than $38,000 in student loan debt– and in New York state, the average resident holds $34,000.
There is strong Democratic support for the bill, but it’s unlikely that it will amass the minimum of 10 Republican votes needed to make its way through legislation. As a result, Senator Schumer is calling on President Biden to cancel student debt via executive order: “President Biden and the Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, have broad administrative powers to cancel student loan debt. They can do this on their own, and we don’t have to go through Congress or worry about 60 votes.”
The push to cancel student loan debt is so strident now in large part because of a recent provision included in the American Rescue Plan. The provision makes student loan forgiveness tax-free until 2026. It will affect 100,000 students in repayment programs and could assist future efforts in forgiving student loans. Despite this, President Biden is hesitant to invoke his executive powers to cancel student debt and believes the bill should make its way through Congress. Instead, President Biden has expressed interest in offering a much less, $10,000 of student loan forgiveness per borrower.
As Congress addresses the student loan issue at hand, it’s important to understand that while canceling student loan debt will alleviate a huge burden on current students, next-generation students aren’t guaranteed that same safety net. When asked about his plan to reduce the likelihood of debt from student loans racking up in the future, Senator Schumer assured The Knight News that Senate Democrats are exploring different ways to avoid that from happening. “It’s a great question. We are looking at ways to reduce the cost of college before students entail this huge amount. Our immediate problem is the debt that so many students have. But we are looking for ways to reduce the cost of college to students in a variety of different ways– because you’re right, it would be better to eliminate the problem than to just constantly deal with new debt that piles up.”
Whether or not President Biden steps in to cancel student loan debt, it is clear that Senator Schumer and other leading Democrats have garnered massive support for this bill and will pursue it through alternative methods if need be.