Student loan forgiveness: Education Department undersecretary nominee details Biden's priorities

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President Biden's nominee for the Undersecretary of Education, the top official in charge of colleges and universities, shed some light on how the administration is thinking about loan forgiveness in a hearing on Thursday morning.

"What President Biden has suggested is that we need to think about a couple of different kinds of loan forgiveness," nominee James Kvaal told the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

"One is a temporary form of loan forgiveness directed at people struggling with the pandemic," he explained. "Second would be for those in public service," he said, referring to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF), "and third would be for those with low incomes and high debts."

James Kvaal. (CSPAN)
James Kvaal testifying to Congress on April 15, 2021. (CSPAN)

On PSLF, which operates with well-known issues, Kvaal noted that "we have a program that is unfortunately quite complicated... there's a lot we can do together to make sure that students get the benefits that they're entitled to."

Kvaal added that more generally, the priorities from President Biden provide "a good structure for thinking about how do we identify those loans that are weighing people down and that they're struggling with and unable to afford."

There are nearly 45 million borrowers holding more than $1.56 trillion in federal and federally-backed student loans, according to recent data from the Department of Education (ED).

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have both repeatedly urged a skeptical Biden to cancel $50,000 in federally-held student loan debt via executive action (as opposed to legislation passed by Congress).

“The Biden administration is still today very much open to what we are doing — no one question about it,” Schumer, speaking about student debt forgiveness, told a town hall organized by Student Debt Crisis and other groups on Thursday. "And in fact, Senator Warren and I and Congresswoman [Ayanna] Pressley and a few others are planning with the president again shortly to reiterate our claim — this is still going, and going strong.”

White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain recently told Politico that the president asked Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to "prepare a memo on the president's legal authority" before any decision.

Aarthi is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @aarthiswami.

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