On Tuesday, before oral arguments at the Supreme Court began on the Biden Administration’s student debt relief plan, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), a leading advocate in Congress for meaningful student debt relief, stood in solidarity with student borrowers, parents, students, and advocates for the historic People’s Rally for Student Debt Cancellation.
The White House reports that over 759,000 borrowers in New Jersey have filed for student loan forgiveness, and that many more would benefit from the Administration’s proposal.
More than 40 million Americans, including many federal borrowers of colour (particularly Blacks and Latinos), stand to gain from these initiatives to reduce their student loan debt. Black borrowers may expect to have their average balance reduced by nearly half, while more than one in four Black borrowers will see their balance forgiven entirely.
Forgiveness of student loans is a morally sound policy. Aiding the tens of millions of hardworking Americans who are currently struggling financially is the moral thing to do. It’s the moral thing to do to work towards a system of higher education in which every American has a fair shot at success.
Menendez argued that this was the moral course of action since it was consistent with the basic principle of fairness. “Those who oppose forgiving student debt are on the wrong side of history, pursuing a flawed policy out of misguided motives.”
Sen. Menendez has been a vocal supporter of cancelling substantial amounts of student debt, and he congratulated the Biden Administration when it made history by doing so for millions of students in 2016. Since this aid was revealed, Republican-controlled states have been trying to cruelly stymie the Obama administration’s proposal to cancel student loans.
Aside from advocating for debt cancellation, Senator Menendez wrote an op-ed in September 2016 urging the Biden Administration to maintain the freeze on student debt payments until it developed and implemented a unified plan to tackle the broken student loan system, which would include improvements to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) programme and lower payments under existing Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) programmes.
In response to the Senator’s suggestions in his op-ed and in his PSLF bill launched last summer, the Administration has taken a number of important initiatives since then.
In April of last year, Sen. Menendez and a number of his colleagues urged the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice to make good on their promise to streamline the process by which people can discharge their student loans through bankruptcy.
The Student Loan Tax Relief Act, proposed by Senator Menendez and Senator Warren, provides a tax exemption for discharged student loan debt until the year 2026. Fortunately, the legislators were able to get this clause into the American Rescue Plan.