Biden’s education secretary isn’t ruling out an extension of the student-loan payment freeze

Joe biden
President Joe Biden. White House/Lawrence Jackson
  • Education Secretary Miguel Cardona isn’t ruling out extending the pause on student-loan payments.
  • Some Democrats argue that the freeze isn’t enough and that borrowers need full debt cancellation.
  • Cardona said he would increase communication to borrowers in the case of federal debt cancellation.
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In one of his first actions in office, President Joe Biden extended the freeze on student-loan payments through September 30. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said on Monday that the department was looking at whether to resume payments and interest come October.

“Obviously we’re going to always take the lead from what the data is telling us and where we are as a country with regards to the recovery of the pandemic,” Cardona said during an Education Writers Association conference. “It’s not out of the question, but at this point it’s September 30.”

He added that with the repayment process, the department would have to work with borrowers “to make sure that we ramp up the communication and the clarity so that it’s smooth as possible.”

“We know that that’s something we’re going to be focusing on as it gets closer,” Cardona said.

Cardona has so far canceled student debt for borrowers defrauded by for-profit schools and for borrowers with disabilities, and he expanded the scope of the payment pause to apply to those with privately held loans under the Federal Family Education Loan program.

A recent report found that freezing student-loan payments had saved borrowers an average of just $2,000, strengthening Democrats’ argument that debt cancellation would be much more significant for borrowers.

Democratic lawmakers and advocacy organizations have pushed Biden to do more and cancel up to $50,000 in student debt per person. Cardona said during the conference that if federal debt cancellation were to go any further, he’d increase his department’s communication efforts to make sure all borrowers are aware of their options.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, one of the lawmakers leading the call to cancel student debt, said on Twitter on April 17 that borrowers needed relief.

“The whole student loan debt system is broken, and it’s placing a massive burden on tens of millions of people,” Warren said. “They need immediate relief. And we need big, structural change to make higher education within reach for every family.”

Biden has asked the Justice and Education departments to review his ability to cancel up to $50,000 in student debt per person.