Thanks To Biden, 153K More People Kiss Student Debt Goodbye

President Joe Biden addresses reporters on the South Lawn of the White House before boarding Marine One for a trip to Los Angeles for a campaign reception on Tuesday, February 20, 2024. Credit: CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

by Bria Overs

As promised, this week the Biden-Harris administration canceled student loan debt for borrowers enrolled in the Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE) repayment plan. The income-driven repayment plan was launched in August 2023, replacing the Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) Plan.

Nearly 153,000 borrowers had a total of $1.2 billion student loan debt wiped out. Forgiveness applied to those who had taken out $12,000 or less in student loans and had been in repayment for at least 10 years.

This newest round brings the total amount canceled by the administration to an estimated $138 billion for 3.9 million borrowers — news that President Joe Biden and Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, the city’s first Black woman mayor, celebrated across her social media pages during a visit to the city yesterday. 

Biden had a post of his own on Instagram, sharing: “I announced a plan to provide millions of working families with debt relief for their college student debt, but MAGA Republicans sued us and the Supreme Court blocked it. That didn’t stop me.”

But it’s only a drop in the bucket. At the end of 2023, 43.2 million Americans had $1.7 trillion in federal and private student loan debt, according to the Federal Reserve and Federal Student Aid data.

Along with announcing forgiveness for SAVE Plan enrollees last month, the administration shared there are 6.9 million borrowers on the repayment plan. And just over half had a monthly payment of $0.

In addition to this recent move, 74,000 borrowers had their debts canceled in January. Nearly 44,000 of them earned forgiveness through holding public service jobs like teachers, nurses, and firefighters, according to a White House press release. The remaining 30,000 were enrolled in income-driven repayment plans with loans in repayment for at least 20 years and were due for forgiveness.

“Access to higher education is a critical driver of increased economic opportunity,” said Marisa Calderon, president and CEO of Prosperity Now. “Yet, Black and Latino households from low-income backgrounds, on average, owe more than white students upon leaving college. This latest effort is a step toward lifting students, especially those of color, out from under our crushing student debt crisis. Still, there is more action required to close the racial wealth divide in America.”

Last June, the Supreme Court struck down Biden’s sweeping student loan forgiveness plan, ruling in favor of the six Republican-led states that sued to stop the plan. The Department of Education is currently working on a different approach targeting relief for borrowers with balances greater than their original loan amounts, who entered repayment more than 20 years ago, and who attended schools that allegedly defrauded students or closed before they could complete their degrees. 

It’s not exactly what Biden promised on the campaign trail in 2020, but debt cancellation activists still support President Biden’s progress.

“All of this relief is happening as the ‘Plan B’ for student loan relief continues via the negotiated rule-making process,” said Melissa Byrne, executive director of We, The 45 Million, in a statement. “I am looking forward to continuing to celebrate more and more borrowers having their loans canceled. Thank you, President Biden, for never giving up and getting the work done.”