Former education secretary asks Biden to forgive student debt

John King listens to stories at Edgehill Farm on September 08, 2019 in Gaithersburg, MD.

Catherine Frey | The Washington Post | Getty Images

John B. King, Jr.who served as education secretary under former President Barack Obama, joined a number of other top government officials calling on President Joe Biden to cancel student debt through executive action.

King, who is running for governor of Maryland, wrote in a Business Insider op-ed on Wednesday that the country’s outstanding student loan balance is “unquestionably a crisis.”

“Too often, the crushing weight of student debt keeps people from even considering buying a home, raising a family, or starting a new business,” King wrote.

King isn’t the only former U.S. Department of Education official to back student debt forgiveness. Wayne Johnson, a top student loans official under former President Donald Trump, resigned in 2019, saying the loan system was “basically brokenand advocating a broad cancellation.

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, the country’s outstanding student debt exceeded $1.7 trillion and placed a heavier burden on households than credit card or auto debt. It is estimated that around a quarter of borrowers, or 10 million people, are in default.

Biden is also under pressure from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., to write off at least $50,0000 per borrower.

“You don’t need Congress,” Schumer said. “All you need is the flick of a pen.”

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Biden asked the US Department of Education to prepare a memo outlining his authority to cancel student loans, but the agency has had that report for more than 10 months and its findings have still not been made public.

In January, 80 members of the House and Senate wrote a letter to Biden urging his administration to share this report and immediately cancel $50,000 in student debt for all.

Criticisms of a Student Debt Jubilee say that it would be unfair to those who have not borrowed for their studies and who have repaid their loans, and that it would not significantly stimulate the economy because college graduates tend to have higher incomes and are more likely to redirect their monthly bill toward savings rather than additional expenses.

There are reports disagreement on the subject within Biden’s inner circle, and the president himself has questioned whether loan forgiveness to those with a college education was the best way to support the families of the middle class.

Still, a White House spokesman said the president was continuing to consider what debt relief steps could be taken administratively.

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