House Democratic leaders dropped the idea of canceling up to $10,000 in student debt for economically distressed borrowers in their scaled-down $2.2 trillion proposal for a new stimulus package. But confusing some higher education advocates, Democrats are proposing to cancel up to $10,000 in debt for economically distressed borrowers with private student loans.
House Democrats in their prior $3.4 trillion HEROES Act proposal had included debt cancellation for economically distressed federal loan borrowers as well.
A House education committee spokeswoman referred questions about why the plan was dropped in the new package, while private loan borrowers would have loans forgiven, to Speaker Nancy Pelosi. A spokeswoman for Pelosi did not respond.
Pelosi’s new proposal, however, would continue excusing federal loan borrowers from making payments until Sept. 30, 2021, without interest. Most borrowers with federal student loans have been allowed to not make payments under the CARES Act relief package, but the moratorium is due to run out today. The federal government, meanwhile, would make the monthly loan repayments on behalf of the economically distressed with private loans until hitting the $10,000 limit.
Kyle Southern, federal policy and advocacy director for the millennial group Young Invincibles, praised the House Democrats' proposal for extending the pause on making loan payments, while the Republican Senate has not come to agreement on another aid package. But he said that by excluding federal loan borrowers, it “misses the mark on supporting more than a million borrowers in the best way possible: A broad measure cancelling debt that will otherwise continue to weigh down young people and our economic recovery on the other side of the ongoing pandemic.”
Meanwhile, the American Council on Education, representing the nation’s colleges and universities, expressed disappointment that House Democrats are only calling for another $39 billion in aid for higher education institutions in the new proposal. That was up slightly from the $37 billion Democrats had included in the previous HEROES Act proposal. But ACE and 45 other groups had asked for at least $120 billion in aid, saying the coronavirus pandemic has taken an even deeper financial toll on colleges and universities than expected. “While this funding will help, and we appreciate the slight increase from the earlier bill, it falls far short of addressing the massive needs that students and campuses have,” said Jon Fansmith, ACE’s government relations director.
Pelosi reportedly has begun meeting with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to try to resuscitate stalled negotiations over another coronavirus aid package.