More than eight million people apply for student debt relief after Biden launches website ‘without a glitch’

GOP critics who oppose debt cancellation while approving Trump tax cuts and forgiveable Covid aid are ‘wrong and hypocritical,’ president says

Alex Woodward
New York
Monday 17 October 2022 22:58 BST
Biden hits out at Republican opposition to student debt relief

Relief is in sight for the more than 40 million Americans eligible for some student loan debt cancellation, as more than eight million Americans have already signed up for relief through a newly launched website from President Joe Biden’s administration after its initial launch this weekend.

In remarks on 17 October to formally launch the website, the president called the plan a “game changer” for millions of borrowers eligible for up to $10,000 in loan balances to be canceled, or up to $20,000 for borrowers that relied on Pell grants for their higher education.

The form at includes 10 questions, including first, middle and last names, date of birth, social security number and contact information.

Mr Biden said eight million people signed up for relief after the website’s beta launch “without a glitch or difficulty.”

While right-wing legal groups and Republican attorneys general from six states have filed legal challenges to stop the administration’s efforts, the president called GOP “outrage” over the plan “wrong and hypocritical”.

“Republican members of Congress and Republican governors are trying to do everything they can to deny this relief, even to their own constituents,” he said.

“I will never apologize for helping working Americans and middle-class people as they recover from the pandemic – especially to the same Republicans who voted for a $2 trillion tax cut,” Mr Biden added, referencing cuts approved by congressional Republicans and Donald Trump in 2017.

Republicans “didn’t pay for a penny of it and racked up the deficit,” Mr Biden said.

He also condemned Republican officials who have criticised the student debt plan while accepting “hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars” in aid through forgivable federal loans approved by Congress during the pandemic.

The cancellation plan is expected to impact roughly 40 million borrowers.

Last week, US District Judge Henry Autrey appeared to doubt whether the plaintiffs have standing, or the right to bring the case, as he mulls GOP requests to block the plan.

“It is hard to make a cake if you don’t have a pan to put that cake in,” he said during opening arguments on 12 October. “That pan is standing. It doesn’t matter if you have all the ingredients.”

The lawsuit filed by attorneys general from Republican-led states Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and South Carolina on behalf of Iowa’s Republican governor.

Mr Biden, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and the US Department of Education are named as defendants.

On Monday, Mr Biden told reporters that he believes the plan will hold up in court.

The administration’s plan will cancel up to $10,000 in debt from federally backed student loans for borrowers earning up to $125,000, or $250,000 for married couples.

Borrowers who also received Pell grants while in school are eligible for up to $20,000 of their debt to be cancelled.

The student loan debt crisis has exploded to a total balance of nearly $2 trillion, held among more than 40 million Americans, mostly wrapped up in federal loans. Millions of Americans continue to tackle accrued interest without chipping away at their principal balances years after graduating, or have been forced to leave their colleges or universities without obtaining a degree at all while still facing loan repayments.

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