Merkley Leads Senate Introduction of Legislation to Protect Historic Federal Student Loan Repayment Program

Announcement comes as White House holds “SAVE Day of Action” in support of SAVE Plan

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, along with Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Bob Casey (D-PA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Peter Welch (D-VT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Laphonza Butler (D-CA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Alex Padilla (D-CA), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), today announced the introduction of the Codifying SAVE Plan Act. The bill codifies President Joe Biden’s new income-driven repayment program known as the “SAVE Plan” into law, benefiting students now and in the future. A companion version was introduced in the House last year by Reps. Dan Goldman (D-NY-10) & Sara Jacobs (D-CA-51).

“Higher education should open the doors of opportunity for students—not saddle them with a lifetime of crushing debt,” dijo el senador Merkley. “I’ve long pushed for better income-based repayment programs because we must do all we can to address America’s student debt crisis. My Codifying SAVE Plan Act codifies the president’s landmark SAVE Plan into law, ensuring student borrowers will have a much-needed path to loan forgiveness for years to come.”

“President Biden’s SAVE Plan has impacted the lives of hundreds of thousands of student loan borrowers in New York and millions more across the United States,” said Rep. Goldman. “As we approach the November 2024 elections, we must codify the SAVE Plan into law and protect it from the prospect of being rolled back under future administrations. That’s exactly why Congresswoman Jacobs and I led this charge in the House of Representatives, and why I am thrilled Senator Merkley is taking up the fight in the Senate. Together, we can ensure the survival of this historic student loan debt relief and deliver on the promise of the benefits and possibilities provided by higher education.”

“The student debt crisis has prevented so many people – especially in my generation – from reaching some of life’s biggest and most beautiful moments like buying a home, growing a family, or starting a business,” said Rep. Jacobs. “And now, younger generations, who are also strapped with student loan debt, are entering the job market and aspiring to reach the milestones that so many of my peers are still trying to attain. That’s why I’m so grateful for President Biden’s leadership in canceling $144 billion for nearly 4 million Americans – most of which was done through the historic SAVE Plan. Canceling debt isn’t only a big relief for Americans, it also helps more people participate and contribute to our economy. I’m proud to co-lead the Codifying SAVE Plan Act in the House so we can make this progress permanent and build on it – and I’m so glad to see that momentum is building in the Senate too! Together, we will keep working to bring down the costs of education and ensure equitable access to quality higher education.”

First introduced in August 2023, President Biden’s Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE) Plan cuts undergraduate borrowers’ monthly payments from 10 percent of their discretionary income to 5 percent, and monthly payments would be $0 for those earning under 225 percent of the poverty line. The SAVE Plan also ensures that the Department of Education does not charge any monthly interest not covered by a borrower’s payment while they are on the SAVE plan. More than 7.7 million borrowers are already enrolled in the SAVE Plan. To mark the success of the SAVE Plan, the White House is holding a ‘SAVE Day of Action’ today, bringing together stakeholders from across the country in support of the plan.

Sen. Merkley’s Codifying SAVE Plan Act is endorsed by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), American Association of University Women, American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Campaign for College Opportunity, Center for Law & Social Policy, Civic Nation, Consumer Action, NAACP, National Urban League, National Education Association (NEA), Oregon Student Association, Public Citizen, Rise, SEIU, Student Debt Crisis Center, The Century Foundation Higher Education team, The Education Trust, The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS), UnidosUS, and Young Invincibles.

“For decades, Americans have been told that a college education is the pathway to the American dream, but chronic disinvestment and predatory loan servicers have turned it into a debt-riddled nightmare. Fortunately, Sen. Jeff Merkley is stepping up to expand and codify the Biden administration’s bold moves to make life a little easier for Americans who just want to go to college. The Codifying SAVE Plan Act would make sure President Joe Biden’s game-changing income-driven repayment plan is around for the long term. This bill has the AFT’s full support. It would create the most affordable repayment options ever and would make a college degree more accessible, affordable and achievable—not a liability that makes life harder,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten.

“Through Civic Nation’s work as a Founding Partner of the SAVE On Student Debt Campaign, we’ve seen firsthand the life-changing benefit that the SAVE Plan provides for borrowers. As of today, more than 4 million borrowers enrolled in SAVE have a monthly payment of $0 and more than 150,000 have seen their remaining balance canceled entirely. That is real money in people’s pockets that they can use to buy groceries, pay for childcare, save for a home and so much more. We are grateful to Senator Merkley and Representatives Goldman and Jacobs for working to enshrine this critical program into law,” said Jalakoi Solomon, EVP of Campaigns and Partnerships at Civic Nation.

“Historically, education has provided a step into the middle class for Black Americans.  The cost of education and compound interest have trapped far too many in a cycle of debt. The SAVE Plan is useful legislation because it pegs repayment to a borrower’s discretionary income. The NAACP is proud to support Senator Merkley’s bill to codify the SAVE Plan, which should be permanently available for borrowers. Education and hard work should never block the American dream,” said Patrice Willoughby, NAACP Senior Vice President for Global Policy and Impact.

“Without a doubt, SAVE is the most affordable income-driven repayment plan in history. More than 7.5 million people are already enrolled in SAVE, including thousands of educators that are seeking Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) because of its connection to SAVE. It is clear that the Biden-Administration is making bold moves to ensure higher education is affordable and accessible to all Americans. NEA is proud to support the Codifying SAVE Plan Act to guarantee this plan is protected and available for every student,” said Marc Egan, Director of Government Relations, National Education Association.

“The SAVE IDR Plan is a lifeline for countless Americans who pursue higher education to create a brighter future for themselves and their loved ones. This bill is absolutely vital. The SAVE Plan has already empowered so many SEIU members to reduce the crushing burden of student debt while continuing their critical work serving our communities and keeping businesses thriving. We must pass this bill now to protect the SAVE plan for working people,” said SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry.

“We strongly support this legislation, which protects the SAVE Plan and therefore ensures student loan borrowers are protected from unaffordable monthly payments and are not stuck in a lifetime of debt,” dicho Michele Shepard, Senior Director of College Affordability at TICAS.