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5 things to know about Biden’s new student loan plan

President Biden announced a student loan plan Monday that would help millions of Americans have their debt forgiven in his latest attempt to provide relief to borrowers. 

Biden announced a plan focused in large part on borrowers with so-called “runaway interest” who owe more money than they did at the start of repayment.

The plan, if finalized, would likely go into effect this fall, but it risks being legally challenged by Republicans who don’t back student debt relief that could add to the millions of people who have already seen some debt relief under the Biden administration’s executive plans.

Here are five things to know about Biden’s new proposal.

More than 25 million borrowers impacted

The plans would give relief to 25 million borrowers who owe more money than they did at the start of repayment because of the interest rate on federal student loans. If the plan is finalized, it would cancel up to $20,000 of the amount a borrowers’ balance has grown because of unpaid interest, regardless of income.

The new plan would cancel the total amount a borrowers’ balance has grown due to unpaid interest if the borrower is enrolled in the SAVE plan or other income-driven loan forgiveness programs. It aims to forgive interest balances built up to date for 25 million borrowers, with 23 million likely to have all of their balance growth forgiven.

It would also give relief to borrowers enrolled in low-financial-value education programs that have been deemed insufficient by the Department of Education, and borrowers who are experiencing hardship in paying back loans such as those at high risk of defaulting and families burdened with other types of debt, such as medical.

If the plans are finalized, the administration is aiming to implement it as early as fall 2024.

The White House has argued that runaway interest is part of the “broken system” of student loan debt, and the administration has aimed to provide automatic debt relief for borrowers who qualify under the SAVE plan and other programs but has hit red tape in past efforts.

Legal challenges likely

The plan, if finalized, will almost certainly be challenged in court, something White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Monday told reporters the administration was expecting.

“We know what Republicans are going to do; we can’t stop them from that. But it’s also not going to stop the president from acting and taking action, like he is today,” she said.

Administration officials told reporters the plan is consistent with the Supreme Court’s decision last June that blocked Biden’s broad student loan forgiveness plan.

“We have studied the Supreme Court’s decision carefully,” an official told reporters. “We intend to pursue these regulations in a way that is entirely consistent with that decision.”

When the high court blocked the plan, it ruled that Congress had not authorized the executive branch to forgive the debts that are estimated to be at hundreds of billions of dollars.

Justices at the time expressed doubt about the Education Department’s authority to unilaterally forgive debt. The administration attempted to justify the plan by tying it to the national emergency established during the public health crisis from COVID-19.

“The plans involve different considerations by providing targeted relief to borrowers with particular circumstances,” the official said about the new plan. “This isn’t the same plan. And we feel confident going forward.”

Adds to millions borrowers already provided relief

The plan, if finalized, would mean that more than 30 million borrowers have received student debt relief during the Biden administration.

Biden has provided debt relief for 4 million borrowers, which equated to $146 billion in student debt, through executive actions, including making fixes to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. He canceled loans for more than 150,000 borrowers enrolled in the SAVE program, which is a repayment plan he launched to help borrowers have as low as zero-dollar payments on their loans.

Overall, almost 8 million borrowers have enrolled in the SAVE plan, 4.5 million have a monthly payment of $0 under the plan, and 1 million have a monthly payment of less than $100, according to the White House.

Biden seeks to find workaround after Supreme Court defeat

The Supreme Court striking down Biden’s student debt relief plan, which aimed to help more than 40 million borrowers receive loan forgiveness, was a major blow to the president and his campaign promises to forgive such loans.

That plan would have canceled up to $20,000 in loans for Pell Grant recipients and $10,000 for other borrowers, if the individual’s income is less than $125,000.

At the time, Biden vowed to find new actions to help student loan borrowers, declaring that the “fight is not over.” Monday’s announcement would help the largest swath of borrowers since the Supreme Court struck down the original plan.

Biden and the White House has also leaned into blaming Republicans as the reason why Americans have been denied student loan forgiveness, using that message on the campaign trail in recent months.

Plan could energize young voters

Student loan forgiveness is top of mind for many voters, especially young people who Biden needs to attract ahead of November. Biden has faced a lack of enthusiasm with young Americans, who may have concerns that Biden is too old for another term, disagree with him on policy issues, or aren’t happy that the 2024 race is a rematch of 2020.

Young people have been particularly upset with Biden in recent months over his pro-Israel stance and his handling of the war in Gaza. The push for voters to cast a boycott ballot, rather than voting for Biden in the Democratic primary, resonated the most with young voters in states including Michigan, Washington, Minnesota and Massachusetts, which had the highest concentration of protest votes in areas where young people live.

The latest student loan plan would deliver relief for Americans early this fall, weeks ahead of the general election. That timing could give Biden a boost he needs with young people.

Biden traveled to Madison, Wis., on Monday to announce the plan in a key swing state he won in 2020. While there, he is also expected to meet with borrowers who have benefited so far from the administration’s work on forgiving student loans.

Source: The Hill

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