The incoming Biden administration plans to extend the federal government’s pause on most student loan payments and interest during the pandemic for an additional eight months as soon as Joe Biden is sworn into office on Wednesday.
Biden will immediately direct the Education Department to continue to freeze monthly payments and interest on most federal student loans until “at least” Sept. 30, his advisers said.
“There are too many Americans that, facing economic challenges, are also facing trouble paying their student loans,” said Brian Deese, the incoming director of the National Economic Council, adding that some borrowers would otherwise have to choose between paying their loan and basic necessities like food or housing.
The extension of relief for student loan borrowers will affect roughly 40 million federal borrowers who have been shielded from payments and interest since the CARES Act, H.R. 748 (116), was enacted last March.
President Donald Trump last summer used executive action to continue the CARES Act student loan relief until the end of December, avoiding student loan bills coming due just weeks before the presidential election. And last month former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos further extended the relief until the end of January.
Biden’s directive calls for an extension of the existing student loan relief, which applies to borrowers with federally held student loans. The policy excludes some 8 million borrowers who have federally backed student loan debt that is held by a private lender.
Punting student loan forgiveness to Congress: Progressives have been pushing the incoming Biden administration to cancel student loan debt through executive action, a strategy that the outgoing Trump Education Department has sought to impede.
But Biden has signaled he doesn’t believe he has the authority to do so, and his advisers have made clear that the incoming administration wants Congress to tackle that issue.
“As the president-elect has said for months, he supports Congress acting immediately to cancel $10,000 of federal student loan debt per person,” Deese told reporters on Tuesday.
Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid relief proposal does not include student loan forgiveness, though his advisers said that he still supports the idea.
The extension of sweeping student loan forbearance is one of more than a dozen executive actions that Biden plans to roll out on his first day in office, including several that relate to education.
Biden is expected to sign the executive orders in the Oval Office shortly after his inauguration on Wednesday afternoon. Officials said that the full text of the orders would not be available until after Biden signs them.
Overturning the “patriotic education” panel: Biden plans to terminate the Trump administration’s 1776 Commission, which existed only for several months and was based at the Education Department.
The commission on Monday released a report, some parts of which appear to be lifted from an author’s prior work, that attacked progressivism as a threat to America’s principles alongside fascism and slavery. It also defended the Founding Fathers’ views on slavery in what the White House billed as the “definitive chronicle of the American founding.”
Susan Rice, the incoming director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, called the commission “harmful” and a Biden transition team fact sheet said that the committee had “sought to erase America’s history of racial injustice.”
Repealing Trump’s order on diversity training: The Biden administration also plans to swiftly undo the Trump administration’s policy that prohibited federal contractors and some grant recipients that conduct “any form of race or sex stereotyping,” including diversity training.
Colleges and universities, among other groups, like LGBT advocacy organizations, had called on the Biden administration to reverse the policy. A federal judge last month also put Trump’s executive order on hold.
Expanding transgender rights: Biden will sign an executive order that his advisers said “builds on” the Supreme Court’s ruling last year in Bostock v. Clayton County, a landmark ruling that said that federal law protects employees against workplace discrimination based on their gender identity or sexual orientation.
Rice said that the order would also create “an effective presumption that federal antidiscrimination statutes that cover sex discrimination prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.”
That would appear to apply to Title IX, which bars sex discrimination in federally supported education programs. The Trump administration had repeatedly said that it believed that the Bostock ruling did not apply to Title IX, most recently in an Education Department legal opinion earlier this month.
Boosting DACA: Biden also plans to sign a presidential memorandum on Wednesday that aimed at “preserving and fortifying” the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that provides relief from deportation to immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children.
It will also include a legislative proposal that would allow DACA recipients to immediately apply for permanent legal status.
The Trump administration tried to end the DACA program but the Supreme Court ruled last year that decision was legally defective. A federal judge in December ordered the Trump administration to once again begin accepting new applications for the program.