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Over 200 Orgs Urge President Biden to Continue Pause on Student Loan Payments Until He Cancels St...

President Joseph R. Biden 

The White House 

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW 

Washington, DC 20500 

March 7, 2022

Dear Mr. President:

In fewer than 60 days, tens of millions of student loan borrowers are slated to be thrown back into repayment on federal student loans they are ill-equipped to pay as the economy experiences the highest level of inflation in nearly four decades. We, the undersigned 210 organizations, write to urge you to put a stop this crisis in the making before it begins and extend the current pause on student loan payments. It is clear that payments should not resume until your administration has fully delivered on the promises you made to student loan borrowers to fix the broken student loan system and cancel a substantial amount of federal student debt. 

The U.S. Department of Education (“the Department”) holds nearly $1.6 trillion in federal student loans and more than 45 million individual borrowers live in the shadow of that massive debt. Payments on most of these loans have been paused since March 2020, during which time interest charges have also been suspended and the federal government has halted collection efforts against most borrowers in default.

The Department’s own data reveal the powerful impact this payment pause has had on Americans’ lives, finding that “borrowers are saving approximately $5 billion per month from the temporary 0% interest rate.” This relief is not limited to borrowers repaying student loans– for two years, students and parents have been able to pay for higher education without facing the burden of student loan interest charges. This is the single largest action taken by the Biden administration to expand college affordability.  

The student loan payment pause has been one of the most important investments the federal government has made in Americans' financial lives in a generation. Before the pandemic struck, tens of millions of borrowers struggled every day to navigate a badly broken student loan system. America’s student debt crisis wreaked havoc on the financial lives of families across the country, despite payment relief and debt forgiveness programs that promised that these debts would never be a life-long burden. 

You ran for president on the promise that you would reform the student loan system to ensure that student loan payments would be affordable for all. Your administration’s decision to extend the payment pause, alongside the Department’s recent overhaul of the programs for Public Service Loan Forgiveness and Total and Permanent Disability Discharge are critical and welcome first steps. Right now, your administration has the opportunity to continue repairing the damage caused by policy failures at the federal and state level and decades of government mismanagement and industry abuses—an opportunity and an obligation that must be fulfilled before any action is taken to resume monthly student loan payments. 

It is critical that your administration continue to deliver on your promises made to student loan borrowers and their families before ending the pause in payments and collections. Borrowers need immediate relief from the crushing burdens of massive student loan debt as the pandemic exacerbates financial strain for all Americans and throws existing racial disparities in wealth and educational attainment into especially stark relief. 

Recent polling from the Student Borrower Protection Center and Data for Progress reveal that 69 percent of likely voters support your continued pause on student loan payments, including majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. Among respondents with student debt, 65 percent expect to make “major changes to saving or spending” if payments resume. Nearly 4-in-10 borrowers are “not confident at all” in their ability to manage a student loan payment, while just 1-in-5 borrowers are “very confident.” These results underscore the need for your administration to delay the planned restart of federal student loan payments. 

The burden of student debt and the costs of our broken student loan system fall disproportionately on Black and Brown borrowers—those who, as a result of decades of racially discriminatory policies and practices that created and sustain the racial wealth and income gaps, most often lack the familial wealth necessary to avoid taking on student debt. A growing body of evidence also demonstrates that these borrowers are disproportionately blocked from accessing existing avenues for debt relief enacted by Congress.

Each day, we are met with new evidence that the student loan system is unable to meet the needs of student loan borrowers and our country. 2021 was particularly rife with examples of that failure, including:

  1. The National Consumer Law Center received data through FOIA showing that, as of January 2021, only 32 borrowers had successfully navigated the IDR repayment plans and received cancellation, out of more than 4 million with decades-old debts.

  2. The Education Department acknowledged a backlog of 175,000 applications for Public Service Loan Forgiveness—borrowers who may be forced to pay a student loan bill as they remain stuck in the government’s red tape. The recent announcement of the limited and temporary PSLF waiver does offer a new path to relief for some borrowers, but inconsistent servicer implementation of the new rules threatens its promise.

  3. The Education Department also acknowledged a backlog of more than 128,000 applications for Borrower Defense discharges—the number of unprocessed claims for debt relief due to fraud by a school climbed by more than 20,000 during the first months of the Biden administration.

These are just a few recent examples of how the student loan system is failing borrowers entitled to immediate debt relief under the law. A hasty and reckless return to repayment would only expose borrowers to similar harms this year. 

That is because the companies responsible for managing this transition and the system itself have repeatedly proven unable to avoid widespread failures even when performing basic functions. For example, in two separate scandals at the height of the pandemic, the Education Department and its student loan contractors improperly garnished the wages of hundreds of thousands of people and damaged the credit reports of nearly five million others.

There is a broad consensus among borrowers, advocates, industry, regulators, enforcement officials, and lawmakers that a rush to resume student loan payments is a recipe for disaster and will result in widespread confusion and distress for student loan borrowers. Before resuming payments on student loans, the Department of Education must undertake significant structural reforms; provide real, immediate relief; and cancel a significant amount of federal student debt. This will ensure that millions of borrowers don’t remain trapped in a broken system just as the economy begins to recover. 

For the reasons outlined above, we strongly urge you to take immediate action to extend the current pause on student loan payments. We look forward to supporting your administration as you take this necessary action and work to deliver on the promises made to student loan borrowers across the country. 

Sincerely,

Student Borrower Protection Center Accountable.US

Adasina Social Capital

Affordable Homeownership Foundation, Inc.

African American Ministers In Action

Alaska PIRG

Albuquerque Mennonite Church

Alliance for Youth Action

American Association of University Professors

American Baptist Home Mission Society

American Civil Liberties Union

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)

American Federation of Teachers

American Federation of Teachers – Vermont

American Psychological Association

Americans for Financial Reform

Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents (ALAS)

Association of Oncology Social Work

Association of Young Americans (AYA)

Bend the Arc: Jewish Action

Blue Future

California Alliance for Consumer Education (CACE)

California Asset Building Coalition

California Association of Nonprofits

Californians for Economic Justice

CAMEO - California Association for Micro Enterprise Opportunity

Campaign for America's Future

Campus Action for Democracy

Carolina Jews for Justice

Center for Economic Integrity

Center for LGBTQ Economic Advancement & Research (CLEAR)

Center for Responsible Lending

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy

Chicago Consumer Coalition

Chicago Foundation for Women

Civil Service Bar Association

Columbia Consumer Education Council

Communities for Our Colleges, WA

Community Service Society of New York

Consumer Federation of America

Consumer Federation of California

Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety

Council on Social Work Education

Debt Collective

Debt-Free MD, Inc. (Maryland)

Economic Mobility Pathways (EMPath)

Faith in Action

Forward Montana

Fossil Fuel Divest Harvard

Fosterus

Franciscan Action Network

Fresno Building Healthy Communities

Generation Hope

Greenpeace USA

HBCU Collective

HEAL (Health, Environment, Agriculture, Labor) Food Alliance

Hildreth Institute

Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice at Temple University

Housing and Economic Rights Advocates

Indivisible

Investor Advocates for Social Justice

Jain Family Institute (JFI)

JANUS LLC

Kentucky Center for Economic Policy

League of United Latin American Citizens

Legal Action Chicago

Legal Aid at Work

Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles

Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee

Loan Repayment Assistance Program of Minnesota

Louisiana Budget Project

Maine Center for Economic Policy

Mainers for Accountable Leadership Action

Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition

Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance

Media Voices for Children

Minority Veterans of America

Mississippi Center for Justice

Mobilization for Justice

NAACP, Youth & College

National Action Network

National Association of Consumer Advocates

National Association of Graduate-Professional Students

National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners

National Association of Social Workers

National Association of Social Workers – Alabama Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – Alaska Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – Arizona Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – Arkansas Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – California Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – Colorado Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – Connecticut Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – DC Metro Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – Delaware Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – Florida Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – Georgia Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – Guam Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – Hawai’i Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – Idaho Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – Illinois Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – Indiana Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – Iowa Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – Kentucky Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – Louisiana Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – Maine Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – Maryland Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – Massachusetts Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – Michigan Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – Mississippi Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – Missouri Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – Montana Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – Nebraska Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – Nevada Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – New Hampshire Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – New Jersey Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – New Mexico Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – New York City Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – New York State Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – North Carolina Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – North Dakota Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – Ohio Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – Oklahoma Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – Oregon Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – Pennsylvania Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – South Carolina Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – South Dakota Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – Tennessee Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – Texas Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – Utah Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – Vermont Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – Virginia Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – Washington Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – West Virginia Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – Wisconsin Chapter

National Association of Social Workers – Wyoming Chapter

National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low-income clients)

National Education Association

National Equality Action Team (NEAT)

National Labor Relations Board Union

National League for Nursing

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) Chapter 335

National Young Farmers Coalition

Navigate Student Loans

New Era Colorado

New Hampshire Youth Movement

New Jersey Citizen Action

New Mexico Crisis and Access Line

New York Legal Assistance Group

New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG)

New Yorkers for Responsible Lending Coalition

NextGen California

Nonprofit Professional Employees Union, IFPTE Local 70

North Carolina Coalition for Responsible Lending

OCA - Asian Pacific American Advocates

Ohio Student Association

Our Revolution

PAPSA

ParentsTogether

Partnership for College Completion

People's Parity Project

Physician Assistant Education Association

Progressive Change Campaign Committee

Protect All Children's Environment

Public Citizen

Public Counsel

Public Good Law Center

Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts (PHENOM)

Public Justice Center

Public Law Center

Rachel Carson Council

Rise

Saint Paul's Baptist Church

San Francisco Office of Financial Empowerment

Service Employees International Union (SEIU)

Service Employees International Union Local 500

Service Employees International Union Local 509

Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia

Southern Echo Inc.

SparkAction

State of New Mexico

Student Action

Student Debt Crisis Center (SDCC)

Student Loan Fund Inc.

TEHope

The Arc of the United States

The Collaborative

The Education Trust

The Forum for Youth Investment

THE ONE LESS FOUNDATION

The United Church of Christ & The United Church of Canada

Tzedek DC

UFCW 400

UnidosUS

United Church of Christ, Justice and Local Church Ministries

United Vision for Idaho

United Way Bay Area

Unity Fellowship of Christ Church

University of California Graduate & Professional Council

University of California Student Association

UnKoch My Campus

URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity

Virginia Poverty Law Center

VOCAL-NY

Voices for Progress

We, the 45 Million

Whitman-Walker Health

Women Employed

Young Invincibles

Zero Debt Massachusetts

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