Student-loan forgiveness is noticeably missing from Biden's infrastructure plans

  • Biden’s infrastructure plan invests $318 billion in education, but doesn’t address student debt.
  • Advocates applauded the plan’s college affordability measures but said Biden should cancel student loans, too.
  • Democrats have urged Biden to act on debt cancelation, but he’s exploring his executive authority to do so.
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President Joe Biden officially unveiled the $1.8 trillion part of his $4 trillion infrastructure plan Wednesday night, and it included significant funding toward education, child care, nutrition, tax credits, and more.

But while Biden said in his speech that he wants to make college more affordable, the speech did not address — even once — the giant burden of student debt. 

Biden’s American Families Plan has been lauded by experts and lawmakers for investing in the country’s education system. It includes a $200 billion investment to make preschool free for 3- and 4-year olds, a $109 billion investment for free community college for at least two years, increasing Pell Grant awards to $4,000, and $1.6 billion to help teachers get needed credentials.

Natalia Abrams, executive director of Student Debt Crisis — a nonprofit dedicated to reforming student debt policies — said in a statement to Insider that while she is “encouraged” that free community college and investments in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and minority serving institutions are included in Biden’s plan, he needs to go further to meet his campaign promises.

“President Biden has taken many steps in the right direction in his first 100 days,” Abrams said. “However, the president must meet the commitments he made as a candidate. He supported free public tuition at two and four-year colleges for families making less than $125,000 per year. He promised to double the Pell Grant. And he supported immediate student debt cancellation. The President can — and must — keep these promises.”

 

Insider reported on April 7 that while Biden’s Education Department has so far canceled some student debt for borrowers with disabilities and defrauded borrowers, he has yet to deliver on two campaign promises: canceling $10,000 in student debt per person, and canceling debt for undergraduates from public colleges and HBCUs.

While Biden has said he would welcome any legislation brought to him to cancel $10,000 in student debt, Democratic lawmakers have consistently been urging him to use executive authority to get the job done instead. 

For example, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer held a press call in March, and they said executive action is the quickest way to provide relief to the 45 million Americans with student debt.

“We have a lot on our plate, including moving to infrastructure and all kinds of other things,” Warren said. “I have legislation to do it, but to me, that’s just not a reason to hold off. The president can do this, and I very much hope that he will.”

Since then, borrowers, lawmakers, and advocacy organizations have been keeping the pressure on Biden to act on the student debt crisis, but aside from him asking the Education Department and Justice Department to review his ability to cancel debt by executive action, there has been no word on including it in his next big spending package.

“Cancelling student debt is popular with the American people,” Schumer said on Twitter. “And it’s the right thing to do. Today would be a great day for President Biden to #CancelStudentDebt.”


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