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President Biden walks on a stage in front of signs that read “Canceling Student Debt.”

The Biden administration aims to provide debt relief to nearly 28 million Americans by the fall.


The Biden administration’s latest plan to forgive all or some of nearly 28 million Americans’ student loans would provide much-needed relief to borrowers, hundreds said during a public-comment period that closed Friday. But many others argued the proposal amounts to an unfair gambit designed to help the president win the 2024 election.

“This ‘Student Debt Relief Program’ is a slap in the face to myself and all who went to college and repaid their loans in full,” wrote Eric Nickles. “It is clearly a ploy by the current administration to buy votes.”

Debates over President Biden’s debt relief policies have raged throughout his first term in office, but this public-comment period, which ended Friday, marked one of the few times in the past year that members of the public have had a chance to directly sound off on the polices. The end of the comment period paves the way for the Education Department to finalize the regulations and start forgiving loans. President Biden has said that borrowers could see relief by early fall, though legal challenges are likely and could disrupt that timeline.

Before the regulations can be finalized, though, the Education Department has to review and respond to each of the comments. As of Friday night, the department had received more than 65,000 comments, though fewer than 6,000 had been publicly posted.

This debt relief plan, widely known as Plan B, has been in the works since last summer, when the Supreme Court struck down President Biden’s effort to forgive up to $20,000 in student loans for eligible Americans. About 43 million Americans were expected to benefit from that plan. The Education Department’s new proposed regulations, formally rolled out last month, provide full or partial relief for borrowers who fall into discrete categories. The groups include people who owe more than they initially borrowed as a result of accrued interest, along with those who have been repaying loans for more than 20 years.

The interest provisions in the regulations, which include canceling all of the accrued interest for low-income borrowers, are the costliest elements of the plan—but would also impact the most borrowers. The department expects 26 million borrowers would either have their accrued interest eliminated under the plan or see up to $20,000 of interest canceled if they owe more than they initially borrowed.

Congressional Democrats have supported the plan, while Congressional Republicans have lambasted it as an unconstitutional and costly wealth transfer.

“The Supreme Court already ruled the Biden administration doesn’t have the authority to unilaterally take student debt from those who willingly took it on and transfer it to taxpayers who chose not to go to college or already worked to pay their loans off,” Senator Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican, said in a statement last month. “The Biden administration is sticking these Americans with the bill of someone else’s student debt.”

Forgiving interest will cost about $62 billion over 10 years. The total plan is estimated to cost $147 billion over the same time frame. Department officials wrote in the proposed regulations that the agency will save money by not servicing or trying to collect loans that are unlikely to be repaid in full.

This batch of regulations is the first part of the debt-relief plan. A proposal that would offer loan forgiveness to borrowers facing hardship is still in the works.

In comment after comment, borrowers plead for the relief and say it would be life-changing. But interspersed among those pleas are hundreds of comments critical of the plan, calling it “unfair,” “illegal,” “wrong,” and “unAmerican.”

Critics including the New Civil Liberties Alliance, which has challenged the administration’s debt relief policies in court, argue that the taxpayers shouldn’t have to foot the bill for other people’s choices to attend college and that institutions should be on the hook for unpaid student loans. Some commenters say simply that they paid off their loans, so others should have to do as well.

“I have two children who went to college, paid by me,” Christy Clauss wrote. “I ate grilled cheese every day they were in college in order to save. I am a responsible parent. I asked for nothing and received nothing.”

Likewise, Jerry Scott wrote that the federal government needs to promote personal responsibility and “stop the bailouts.”

“It is wrong for the federal government to use my tax dollars to help pay for the financial irresponsibility of college students who refuse to pay for the loans they voluntarily took out, spent the loan money for school and their living expenses for several years, and now want a bailout even though they had agreed to pay it back,” Scott wrote.

Meanwhile, borrowers supporting the plan wrote about how student debt has affected their lives—particularly the toll that accumulating interest has taken on their lives. The ballooning debt prompted some to put off decisions to buy homes, they wrote, while others said the relief would mean they could go see the doctor when they are sick. Some borrowers shared stories about being taken advantage of now-shuttered colleges and how their investment in higher education didn’t pay off.

For Suzanne Washington, the plan would be “a great relief,” according to her public comment. At 64, she owes more than $70,000 after attending three universities, including the now-closed Mountain State University in West Virginia.

“MSU was going to be my gateway to a better life and the school closing ruined my dreams and my hopes,” she wrote. “I pray that this goes through so I can live whatever time I have on this earth without the stress of such a high debt.”

Other commenters suggested that the department open up the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program to more students as well as consider more systemic changes to ensure future students don’t end up saddled with debt they can’t repay.

“When I went to college in 2007, I signed up for the chemistry program,” wrote Wayne Flenniken. “I agreed to tens of thousands of dollars in loans because I expected to be earning $60–70k a year after graduation. Google said so, and so did the career counselors and the college guides I read through before applying. I have never earned that kind of salary with my degree, even with 12+ years of experience in the field. If we don’t legislate to prevent the entrapment of our young people by colleges, this system will never change and, in a few decades, we will need to bail out our students all over again.”

A coalition of debt-relief advocacy and civil rights organizations, led by the Student Borrower Protection Center, submitted a comment on behalf of more than 22,000 borrowers, who signed on to a petition in favor of the proposal. The petition also called on the department to provide as much automatic relief as possible in the final rule, which would make the plan’s benefits more accessible, and ensure that the department can use its authority to waive student loans in the future to help young borrowers. The petition called on the department to go further in its plans to provide relief, too, by forgiving underlying balances rather than just accumulated interest.

“Millions of borrowers have suffered for far too long,” said Satra D. Taylor, director of higher education and workforce policy and advocacy for Young Invincibles, an advocacy group focused on amplifying the voices of young adults, in a statement. “While recent and upcoming student debt cancellation plans attempt to relieve the burden for some borrowers, more is needed to address the crisis.”

Young Invincibles was one of 228 groups that signed on to a separate comment letter backing the proposed regulations.

“The Biden Administration’s proposed [rule] represents a glimmer of hope for these millions of borrowers and their families that have been forced to wait for nearly two years for much-needed relief,” the letter says. “We stand ready to work in partnership with the Biden Administration to push this relief across the finish line.”

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