Getty Images/Jim Lo Scalzo
The Education Department said Wednesday night that at President Joe Biden's request, it is continuing to give student loan borrowers a break from making their monthly payments for another nine months, until Sept. 30. The department's student aid website was also updated to reflect the pause had been extended. The department said the order came from Phil Rosenfelt, who was named acting education secretary. However, advocacy groups for borrowers urged him to go further.
“Borrowers of all ages are often faced with a tough trade-off between making their student loan payments, investing in their long-term financial future, or paying their bills. The pandemic has only increased the economic hardship of the millions of Americans who have student debt,” Biden said in an executive order he issued after being sworn in as president.
The move was expected after David Kamin, who will be deputy director of the National Economic Council, told reporters Jan. 11 Biden would be continuing the pause, which was due to run out on Feb. 1. Kamin, though, didn’t say how long borrowers would be given a break from having to pay.
The move is the latest extension borrowers have gotten from having to resume making payments after former president Trump in August granted a moratorium through the end of last year. With borrowers facing the prospect of having to make payments again, then-Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Dec. 6 extended the moratorium until Feb. 1.
However, others, like new Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, and Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic senator from Massachusetts, have called on Biden to go further by canceling $50,000 from all student loan borrowers’ debt and bypassing Congress by acting through an executive order.
On Wednesday, advocacy groups praised extending the pause but continued to press for more. “This is a critical first step to help millions of struggling Americans,” Mike Calhoun, president of the Center for Responsible Lending, said in a statement, but he added, “we hope that the administration will consider across-the-board cancellation, which can provide families a path to equity and financial advancement.”
Aaron Ament, who served as chief of staff of the Education Department’s general counsel’s office in the Obama administration and now heads the advocacy group Student Defense, also called on Biden and his nominee for education secretary, Miguel Cardona, to go further.
Student Defense has called on Biden to take other moves through executive action, including canceling student loans for disabled borrowers and those who had been defrauded by for-profit colleges.
“President Biden and Dr. Cardona will have the power to take immediate actions to deliver tangible benefits for millions of student loan borrowers, and to reinvigorate the Department’s enforcement powers to stamp out predatory colleges,” Ament said in a statement.