Joe Biden urged by Democrats to reduce student debt via executive order

Some Democrats are calling on Joe Biden to take extra-congressional measures to reduce student loan debt soon after he stakes office.


Some Democrats are calling on Joe Biden to take extra-congressional measures to reduce student loan debt soon after he stakes office.

Biden campaigned on a limited plan, compared to his former Democratic primary rivals, to reduce all American's student debt by $10,000, and the rest of the debt for graduates of publics schools and historically black schools who made less than $125,000/year, CNBC reports.

Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren wrote a Washington Post op-ed outlining what, in her view, should be the priorities of a Biden-Harris administration. Within the op-ed, Warren advocated for canceling billions in student debt via executive action.

"Cancel billions of dollars in student loan debt, giving tens of millions of Americans an immediate financial boost and helping to close the racial wealth gap. This is the single most effective executive action available to provide massive consumer-driver stimulus," Warren wrote.

New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also urged Biden to enact an executive order forgiving all student loan debt in an Instagram video, Tuesday.

"No, it is not a pipe dream at all," Cortez said in the video. "And most importantly is that it can be done by executive order, which means Biden would not need Mitch McConnell or the Republican Senate to forgive people's student loans."

Experts have chimed in on the proposition to mitigate or completely due away with student debt.

Director of the Project on Predatory Student Lending at Harvard Law School, Toby Merrill, says that it would be possible for the President to execute such an order.

"The Constitution gave Congress the authority to control property of the government, like debts owed to it," she wrote in a statement to CNBC.

Congress granted the Secretary of Education, who works in the President's cabinet "the specific and unrestricted authority to create and to cancel or modify debt owed under federal student loan programs," Merrill explained.

Luke Herrine, a Ph.D. candidate at Yale Law School, argues that the President could certainly cancel student debt by collaborating with the Secretary of Education to simply stop collecting on student loans.

"Basically it’s like the power that a prosecutor has to determine whether to bring charges against somebody – the prosecutor might think that a person has committed a crime but decide not to bring a case against them for whatever reason," Herrine explains.

A paper written by Herrine further explains his theory of student debt cancellation potential.

A study conducted by the Levy Economics institute concluded that the relief of all student loan debt would result in the production of 1 million new jobs and increase the national GDP by half of a percent.

President of the People’s Policy Project, Matt Bruenig, told the Hill that a student debt relief could be Biden's best chance at foregoing congressional approval for passing a stimulus. Bruenig has also said that student debt forgiveness may perhaps be the least effective stimulus method due to its non-liquid nature.

A Wall street Journal op-ed by Beth Akers of the Manhattan Institute explained that a complete student loan forgiveness strategy may not have the desired effect on the economy, since those with the most student debt tend to have the highest paying jobs after completing expensive and prestigious degrees, while those with the least student debt may not have finished their degrees and are the most likely to default on their loans.

Thus, she says Biden should aim for his lower threshold of student debt forgiveness to maximize relief to those who need it most.


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