1 of 4 | President Joe Biden delivers remarks on his administration's efforts to cancel student debt and support students and borrowers in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington on Wednesday. Biden has approved an additional $9 billion in debt relief for an additional 125,000 student loan borrowers. Photo by Shawn Thew/UPI | License Photo
Oct. 4 (UPI) -- The Biden administration announced a new round of student loan relief that will wipe away $9 billion in debt for 125,000 Americans. The announcement comes as student loan payments restart this month following a three-year break during the pandemic.
"With the latest debt cancellation, in total, my administration has canceled $127 billion in student debts for nearly 3.6 million Americans," President Joe Biden announced Wednesday.
The White House said it would provide new relief to targeted segments of the population, including $2.8 billion that will go to 51,000 borrowers who have made loan payments for at least 20 years.
Another $5.2 billion is being provided to 53,000 people under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program and $1.2 billion in debt will be discharged for 22,000 borrowers with permanent disabilities.
"The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program was designed originally to make sure schoolteachers, firefighters, social workers, and other public servants can get their student loans forgiven if they make 10 years of payments and do 10 years of public service," Biden said.
"This kind of relief is life-changing for individuals and their families, but it's good for our economy as a whole as well," the president added. "By freeing millions of Americans from the crushing burden of student debt, it means they can finally get on with their lives. They can think about buying a house, starting a business or starting a family. It matters."
The latest move comes as the administration seeks new approaches to student loan forgiveness following a Supreme Court decision in June that took tens of thousands of dollars in debt relief off the table for millions of cash-strapped Americans.
That plan would have forgiven up to $20,000 in individual loan debt for every borrower, but it was rejected after Republican states sued in the nation's highest court, claiming the move would leave taxpayers on the hook for the money.
"And the Supreme Court sided with them, snatching from the hands of millions of Americans thousands of dollars in debt -- student debt relief that was about to change their lives," Biden said Wednesday. "As I said at the time, I believe the court's decision to strike down my student debt relief program was wrong."
At the same time, federal student loan repayments were coming back due this month after being paused throughout much of the pandemic.
As part of the latest relief effort, the Education Department released a state-by-state breakdown showing the positive impact of debt forgiveness nationwide, with hundreds of millions of dollars going toward the effort in nearly every state.
"Today's announcement builds on everything our administration has already done to protect students from unaffordable debt, make repayment more affordable and ensure that investments in higher education pay off for students and working families," Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said.
Since Biden took office, the administration has rolled out a number of piecemeal reforms, like those that recently wiped away debt for defrauded or disabled students and public service workers, leading to $127 billion in total debt cancellation for nearly 4 million people.
However, the debt cancellations have fallen far short of what was sought by progressive Democrats in Congress, while the broader swath of the middle class has been left empty-handed.
After the high court rebuffed his original loan forgiveness program, Biden vowed to pursue an alternative path to debt relief through the Higher Education Act.
"This act allows the Secretary of Education to compromise, waive, or release loans under certain circumstances," Biden said Wednesday.
"Last week, the Department of Education took a critical step in this process by identifying specific challenges that borrowers face in the current system so we can move forward with a new rule to address these changes," the president added.
In August, the administration launched an affordable student loan repayment plan that makes monthly payments more affordable and prevents balances from rising due to unpaid interest.
Biden's efforts have also been frustrated as Republicans in Congress were likely to reject any student debt relief proposals from the White House.
The Education Department has established a committee to explore further solutions to help borrowers.