Student-loan borrowers can get the most 'debt relief possible' if Biden slashes balances for those facing these 3 repayment challenges, Elizabeth Warren and Chuck Schumer say

Sens. Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren
Sens. Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
  • Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Chuck Schumer urged Biden to do more with student-debt relief.

  • They proposed relief for borrowers outside the already outlined categories for economic hardship.

  • The lawmakers added that borrowers who have faced servicing errors should receive relief.

Two top Democratic lawmakers are urging President Joe Biden to go beyond his proposals for student-loan forgiveness and get borrowers as much relief as possible.

On Saturday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts wrote an opinion piece in The Boston Globe pushing Biden to do more for borrowers who have struggled for years with repayment.

As the Education Department was preparing to resume federal student-loan payments in October after an over three-year pause, it began implementing several reforms — including canceling student debt for borrowers who had made their qualifying payments in income-driven repayment plans and Public Service Loan Forgiveness but had yet to receive relief.

On top of that, the department is crafting its second attempt at debt relief after the Supreme Court struck down its first plan. On Thursday and Friday, it plans to hold its fourth negotiation session with stakeholders to discuss relief for borrowers experiencing hardship, but Warren and Schumer said Biden shouldn't stop there.

"We support all that the president has done, and we, along with millions of Americans crushed under student loan debt, urge him to use the full extent of his authority to cancel more student debt," they wrote. "He should provide relief for as many people as possible and make that relief as easy to access as possible. It's the right thing to do."

The Democratic lawmakers outlined three things Biden should do to get relief to as many borrowers as possible:

  1. Cancel loans for borrowers facing "serious economic hardship" who don't fit into the categories the department has already outlined to consider for relief.

  2. Cancel loans for borrowers who have been "victims of student loan servicer errors who have been shut out of relief through no fault of their own."

  3. And bring borrowers' balances back down to the original amounts they borrowed by canceling the full amount of debt that exceeds their principal balances.

Last week, the Education Department released its proposals ahead of negotiations this week on the factors it might use to determine hardship relief, including household income, repayment history, and whether the hardship is likely to persist. It's unclear how narrowly the department will define hardship in its final rules, but lawmakers beyond Schumer and Warren are urging the department to define the category as broadly as possible.

Last week, for example, Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland led eight of his Democratic colleagues, including Warren, in sending a letter to the Education Department on including borrowers with parent PLUS loans in the hardship category for relief. PLUS loans are loans parents can take out to cover up to the full cost of attendance for their children's education, but they have the highest interest rate and can be difficult to pay off.

"Without addressing the intergenerational debt experienced by families with Parent PLUS loans, the Biden Administration will fall short of its commitments to fix our nation's broken student loan system and to advance affordable access to higher education for all," they wrote.

After negotiations on relief conclude this week, the department plans to prepare the draft text for the rule and allow the public to comment on the proposal before it's finalized.

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