More Student Debt Relief Needed, Some Lawmakers Say

Latest student debt relief proposal should be broadened to address concerns, lawmakers say

Illustration of graduated student wearing graduation ceremony suit holding heavy expensive student loan money bag.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A group of mostly Democratic lawmakers are urging the Biden administration to expand its latest student loan debt relief proposal, saying that the plan does not go far enough to help those trapped by "crushing" debt.

In a December 11 letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, the lawmakers said the proposed rule “would fall far short of providing the full scale of debt relief that low- and middle-income Americans urgently need.” The letter is signed by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Alex Padilla (D-CA), and Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Frederica Wilson (D-FL).

The Department of Education (DOE) is in middle of a rulemaking procedure for the proposed debt relief plan and recently published an initial draft of the rule that would make four subsets of borrowers eligible for debt relief. The letter is in response to this initial draft.

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The four borrower subsets eligible for relief under the plan are those who have loan balances greater than the original principal balance; have paid loans over 20 or 25 years; are eligible for loan forgiveness but have not yet enrolled; and those who took out loans that wound up going to unaccredited or predatory programs.

The proposal follows the Supreme Court's 6-3 decision in July to strike down Biden's initial student loan forgiveness plan aimed at wiping out $20,000 of student debt for 43 million borrowers. Since then, the administration has used a different approach and, according to the DOE, has to date cancelled $132 billion in student loans for more than 3.6 million borrowers.

In their letter to Cardona, the lawmakers acknowledged that effort but said they believe the draft text could be “improved to better take advantage of the (Department of Education's) full authority under the Higher Education Act to protect vulnerable borrowers.”

They urged that six recommendations be considered in the proposed rule as it undergoes the rulemaking process. These are to:

  • Eliminate all debt that exceeds the original principal balance of the loan.
  • Provide full cancelation for borrowers who have repaid enough to cover the original principal.
  • Remove the restricting cutoff date for borrowers who entered payment at least 25 years ago, and instead allow borrowers to become eligible on a rolling basis.
  • Extend relief to borrowers based on varying financial hardships such as receipt of Earned Income Tax Credits or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, along with non-financial factors such as incarceration status or eviction history.
  • Extend relief to people who have faced predatory loan servicer practices.
  • Allow borrowers to obtain relief automatically without having to submit “burdensome” applications.

For more information on federal student loans, including the recently streamlined student loan application form, the DOE advises visiting


Jamie Feldman

Jamie Feldman is a journalist, essayist and content creator. After building a byline as a lifestyle editor for HuffPost, her articles and editorials have since appeared in Cosmopolitan, Betches, Nylon, Bustle, Parade, and Well+Good. Her journey out of credit card debt, which she chronicles on TikTok, has amassed a loyal social media following. Her story has been featured in Fortune, Business Insider and on The Today Show, NBC Nightly News, CBS News, and NPR. She is currently producing a podcast on the same topic and living in Brooklyn, New York. 

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