US Education Dept. to Extend Student Loan Payment Pause by Three Months

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Books  - Sputnik International, 1920, 22.12.2021
US President Joe Biden has long pledged to forgive at least part of millions of Americans' burdensome student loan debt, although critics have noted that plans for restarting payments put on hold during the pandemic runs counter to those promises.
Biden announced on Wednesday that the pandemic-driven pause on payment of student loans would be extended by another 90 days from its February 1 resumption date to May 2.
"We know that millions of student loan borrowers are still coping with the impacts of the pandemic and need some more time before resuming payments. This is an issue Vice President Harris has been closely focused on, and one we both care deeply about," the White House said in a news release.
"Given these considerations, today my Administration is extending the pause on federal student loan repayments for an additional 90 days - through May 1, 2022 - as we manage the ongoing pandemic and further strengthen our economic recovery. Meanwhile, the Department of Education will continue working with borrowers to ensure they have the support they need to transition smoothly back into repayment and advance economic stability for their own households and for our nation."
BIden's announcement comes as the country is grappling with rapidly rising cases of COVID-19, driven by the ultra-transmissive Omicron variant of the virus. On Tuesday, he laid in a national address how his administration plans to deal with the outbreak, including expanding testing and vaccination sites and funneling necessary resources to struggling areas.

Pressure to Forgive Loans Mounts

With millions fewer American workers employed than before the pandemic began in early 2020, the Biden administration has faced pressure from lawmakers and activists to extend the payment pause and consider his past promises to forgive at least some student loan debt.
Earlier this month, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) urged Biden earlier this month to forgive up to $50,000 in student loan debt per person and to extend the payment pause, or it could cost the US economy $85 billion in 2022.

During his campaign for the 2020 US presidential election, Biden said the US "should forgive a minimum of $10,000/person of federal student loans," accusing the Trump administration and Republican lawmakers of attempting "to put corporate bailouts ahead of families" in the first pandemic relief bill in late March 2020.

Last month, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona announced his department was forgiving the student loan debts of up to 50,000 people who qualified for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program under more relaxed rules, which means a demonstrable payment record for the previous 10 years. However, when White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told a reporter last week that "a smooth transition back into repayment is a high priority for the administration," many were dismayed.
When asked by a reporter a few days later about why Biden hadn't followed through on his forgiveness pledge, Psaki said it was because federal lawmakers "haven’t sent him a bill on that yet."
Debt owed on student loans in the US, in which university education is both expensive and privately financed, tops $1.73 trillion and is owed by more than 43 million Americans.
According to data collected by the Education Data Initiative, the average undergraduate student at a public university borrows $30,030 in order to obtain a Bachelor's degree, and US Census Bureau data shows that college costs have increased by 169% since 1980, while earnings for workers between the ages of 22 and 27 have increased by just 19%.
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