Biden to Announce Student Debt Relief for Millions in Swing-State Pitch


President Biden on Monday plans to announce a large-scale effort to help pay off student loans for tens of millions of American borrowers in Wisconsin, seeking an election-year boost by returning to a promise that was blocked by the Supreme Court last year.

White House officials said on Sunday that the president’s plan would reduce the amount that 23 million borrowers still owe on their undergraduate and graduate loans. It would wipe away the entire amount for more than four million Americans. They said that 10 million borrowers would see debt relief of $5,000 or more.

“Today’s announcement shows that we are continuing to fulfill our promises,” Miguel Cardona, the secretary of education, told reporters on Sunday evening. “We’re delivering as much relief as possible, for as many borrowers as possible, as quickly as possible.”

Mr. Biden was set to announce the plan in a speech in Madison, Wis., as other members of his administration fanned out to other cities to do the same. Vice President Kamala Harris will appear in Philadelphia on Monday. Mr. Cardona was traveling to New York.

If Mr. Biden succeeds in putting the new plan into effect before the November election, it may help rally support among voters who were intensely disappointed that the president failed in his first plan, which would have eliminated up to $20,000 in debt for tens of millions of borrowers.

But the president faces steep obstacles in the legal system and the calendar. The new plan will require a monthslong public comment period before it can take effect. Officials said on Sunday that only some of the provisions would begin going into effect in “early fall” of this year.

Officials also expect legal challenges from Republicans, which could take months to resolve. That could leave the plan in limbo as voters go to the polls in November to choose between Mr. Biden and former President Donald J. Trump.

Administration officials hope that the president’s supporters will give him credit for trying. Since the Supreme Court blocked the first effort, the White House has used existing regulations to waive $138 billion in student loan debts for about four million borrowers.

The new plan is more far-reaching than those efforts, but officials said that it was more targeted than the original effort and based on a different law, making it more likely to survive the expected challenges.

“President Biden will use every tool available to cancel student loan debt for as many borrowers as possible no matter how many Republican officials stand in his way,” Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, said.

The plan targets five groups of people with student loans for different levels of relief.

  • People whose loans have grown beyond the amount they originally borrowed because of interest would have up to $20,000 of that interest wiped away, leaving them to repay only the amount they originally borrowed. People making less than $120,000 a year, or couples making less than $240,000, would qualify for having all of their interest forgiven. Officials said that 23 million people would most likely have all of their interest-related balances waived from that provision.

  • About two million borrowers who already qualify to have their student loans waived under existing programs have not applied for relief. Under the new rules, the Education Department would be authorized to cancel the debt for those people without their having to apply.

  • People who took out federal student loans for undergraduate degrees and began repaying them more than 20 years ago would automatically have the debt canceled under the new plan. Graduate students who borrowed money and began repaying 25 years ago would have their debt canceled. Officials said that about 2.5 million people would qualify under that rule.

  • People who borrowed money to attend colleges that have since lost their certification or their eligibility to participate in the federal student aid program would have their debt canceled. Officials did not say how many people that would affect.

  • People who are especially burdened with other expenses — such as high medical debt or child care — could apply to have their student loans forgiven. Officials did not estimate how many people might qualify for what they called the “hardship” programs.

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