Joe Biden cancels student loan debt for 153,000 borrowers

US President Joe Biden has announced he is cancelling federal student loans for nearly 153,000 borrowers.

Mr Biden, who is in the midst of a three-day campaign swing through California, made the announcement as part of a new repayment plan that offers a faster path to forgiveness, putting the spotlight on his debt cancellation efforts in his re-election campaign.

“Too many Americans are still saddled with unsustainable debt in exchange for a college degree,” he said from a local library, before he went on to campaign-related events.

Loan relief helps the greater economy, he reasoned, because “when people have a student debt relief, they buy homes. They start businesses, they contribute. They engage”.

The administration began sending email notifications on Wednesday to some of the borrowers who will benefit from what the White House has called the Save programme.

The cancellations were originally scheduled to start in July, but last month the administration said it would be ready almost six months ahead of schedule, in February.

“Starting today, the first round of folks who are enrolled in our Save student loan repayment plan who have paid their loans for 10 years and borrowed 12,000 dollars or less will have their debt cancelled,” Mr Biden posted on social media on Wednesday. “That’s 150,000 Americans and counting. And we’re pushing to relieve more.”

The first round of forgiveness from the Save plan will clear 1.2 billion dollars in loans. The borrowers will get emails with a message from Mr Biden notifying them that “all or a portion of your federal student loans will be forgiven because you qualify for early loan forgiveness under my Administration’s Save Plan.”

In his email to borrowers, Mr Biden wrote he heard from “countless people who have told me that relieving the burden of their student loan debt will allow them to support themselves and their families, buy their first home, start a small business, and move forward with life plans they’ve put on hold.”

President Joe Biden speaks at Culver City Julian Dixon Library in California
President Joe Biden speaks at Culver City Julian Dixon Library in California (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

He said on Wednesday it was the kind of relief “that can be life changing for individuals and their families.”

“I’m proud to have been able to give borrowers like so many of you the relief you earned,” he said, asking the crowd gathered for his speech how many had debt forgiven. Many raised their hands.

The president, during a campaign fundraiser in Beverly Hills on Tuesday night, highlighted his efforts to help middle-class Americans and warned that a win in November by former president Donald Trump, the Republican presidential front-runner, could lead to a nationwide abortion ban, more Republican efforts to undo the health insurance programme started in the Biden administration and policies that would disproportionately help the wealthy.

He asked his supporters to help win a second term so that he could “finish the job” in enacting an agenda that benefits American workers.

After his speech, Mr Biden was heading to another fundraiser and campaign event. During a quick stop at a local restaurant, CJ’s Cafe, before his library talk, Mr Biden greeted customers, offering handshakes and hugs and posing for selfies.

President Joe Biden takes a photo as he visits CJ’s Cafe in Los Angeles
President Joe Biden takes a photo as he visits CJ’s Cafe in Los Angeles (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

The maximum repayment period is capped at 20 years for those with only undergraduate loans and 25 years for those with any graduate school loans.

Mr Biden announced the new repayment plan last year alongside a separate plan to cancel up to 20,000 dollars in loans for millions of Americans. The Supreme Court struck down his plan for widespread forgiveness, but the repayment plan has so far escaped that level of legal scrutiny. Unlike his proposal for mass cancellation – which had never been done before – the repayment plan is a twist on existing income-based plans created by Congress more than a decade ago.

Mr Biden said he remained steadfast in his commitment to “fix our broken student loan system,” working around the court’s ruling to find other ways to get it done.

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