The big jobs comeback may stop your student debt from being cancelled

Joe biden
President Joe Biden. Pete Marovich-Pool/Getty Images
  • Biden has been touting the country’s economic recovery following job growth in June.
  • The recovery could jeopardize student debt cancellation under the Higher Education Act.
  • Biden’s legal authority to cancel debt is under review, and interpretations of the Act remain disputed.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Some Democrats might be facing more difficulties convincing President Joe Biden that he should cancel student debt for 45 million Americans, thanks to the latest shining jobs report showing the country added 850,000 payrolls in June.

Since Biden took office and inherited a recession, his accomplishments have largely been measured by economic recovery. Though one of his first actions in office was extending the pause on student-loan payments through the end of September to give borrowers some financial relief during the pandemic, he’s hesitated with debt cancellation in the months becausehe is unsure of his legal abilities to do so. Plus, continuing to push for student debt cancellation now could suggest the economy is not recovering as much as he has touted.

One option, according to some lawmakers and advocates, is to cancel $50,000 in student debt using his authority under the Higher Education Act, but this power is widely disputed.

In the case of a national emergency, the HEROES Act of 2003 allows the Secretary of Education to waive or modify any provision of Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 “as may be necessary to ensure that affected individuals are not placed in a worse position financially” than before the national emergency, like a pandemic, for example.

Mark Kantrowitz, a student loans expert, told Insider last month that the Act would not allow for debt cancellation since, if the economy is in recovery, it would go beyond what is necessary.

“It says no worse off,” Kantrowitz said. “It doesn’t mean better off, it means no worse off.”

Kantrowitz elaborated in a paper he wrote in March, saying that forgiving student loans “goes beyond what is necessary to ensure that borrowers are in the same position financially after the national emergency as before the national emergency.”

If the economy is recovering and Biden still cancels student debt, Kantrowitz’s interpretation would suggest the president would be overstepping his authority.

Insider previously reported that even though Biden promised during his campaign to cancel at least $10,000 in student debt, he has not yet done so, and economic recovery could be a factor standing in the way. But he has also asked the Education and Justice Departments to review his ability to cancel $50,000 in student debt per borrower – something some lawmakers and advocates believe he can legally do right now.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have been leading efforts in pressuring Biden to cancel debt using executive action, citing the Higher Education Act as justification for Biden’s legal authority.

Biden’s administration has not yet commented on the status of the legal reviews, but still, pressure continues to mount for him to pursue large-scale student debt cancellation.

“It’s time for President Biden to #CancelStudentDebt,” Warren wrote on Twitter. “People need this. Our country needs this. And one of the best ways to create a 21st-century economy is by investing in people who have invested in their own education.”

Do you have a story about student debt cancellation? Reach out to Ayelet Sheffey at [email protected]