Oregon members of Congress praise student loan forgiveness

Oregon members of Congress praise student loan forgiveness

But Rep. Bonamici, Sens. Merkley and Wyden say more work is required to make college more affordable.

By:  Peter Wong

Edited statements from Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, Sen. Ron Wyden and Sen. Jeff Merkley about their reactions to President Joe Biden's Aug. 24 announcement about targeted forgiveness for student loans:

Bonamici sits on the House higher education subcommittee and has worked on the issue for years.

Rep. Suzanne Bonamici:

"The Biden administration's historic decision to forgive up to $20,000 in student loan debt will transform the lives of millions of hardworking Americans.

"I applaud President Biden for taking bold action that provides relief to borrowers who need it most - Pell Grant recipients and those with debt but no degree. Pell Grant recipients are eligible for up to $20,000 of debt forgiveness; other non-Pell Grant borrowers are eligible for up to $10,000 of forgiveness. The president's action will completely eliminate student debt for millions of borrowers and reduce the outstanding balance for millions more. Borrowers of color are more likely to qualify for Pell Grants, so this relief is an important step toward addressing generational wealth inequality.

"The president's announcement is the most far-reaching in a long list of actions taken by the Biden administration to support student borrowers, reform the federal student loan system, and make our nation's colleges and universities more affordable.

"To date, this administration has approved $32 billion in loan forgiveness for about 1.6 million borrowers nationwide who have worked in public service, attended institutions engaged in fraudulent practices, and more. Borrowers across Oregon are benefiting from this proactive approach to addressing the student debt crisis. The Department of Education's Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) waiver identified 2,050 Oregonians holding $120.2 million in federal student loans for forgiveness. The department also approved $102.5 million in loan forgiveness for an additional 8,650 Oregon borrowers who were defrauded by the predatory and misleading tactics of Corinthian Colleges, Inc. The department also provided forgiveness of outstanding student loan debt held by 2,090 Oregon borrowers who attended the predatory institution ITT Tech between 2005-2016. These three actions alone amount to nearly $260 million in financial relief for Oregonians.

"Congress must now pursue targeted policies that build on the Biden administration's actions to support borrowers and address long-term college affordability. I have introduced and am working to pass several bills that will make college more affordable for students before, during, and after their education, especially for the most vulnerable and marginalized students.

• My SIMPLE Act would make it easier for more borrowers to access income-driven repayment plans to minimize their monthly student loan payments upon completing their education. This will complement the Biden administration's recent proposed rule to improve income-driven repayment.

• My Opportunities for Success Act would make the federal work study program more generous, target students with financial need, improve access to meaningful career-related work experience for students, and provide incentives to colleges that focus on the academic and professional success of low-income students.

• My Student Loan Borrower Safety Net Act would protect borrowers with federal student loans following the end of the student loan repayment pause by simplifying borrowers' ability to enroll in income-driven repayment plans, increasing access to economic hardship support, improving outreach to borrowers regarding the resumption of payments, and providing a longer grace period for borrowers who miss a payment.

• My Students and Young Consumers Empowerment Act would leverage the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to protect student borrowers and provide relevant and timely information about the student loan marketplace.

• I also enthusiastically supported a historic increase to the Pell grant in the fiscal year 2022 enacted budget and a proposed increase in fiscal year 2023 budget.

"I remain committed to working with Secretary Cardona and my colleagues in Congress to provide all eligible borrowers with the relief they need to thrive. And I look forward to continuing our work to improve access to affordable, high-quality higher education."

Sen. Jeff Merkley:

"As the son of blue-collar parents and the first in my family to graduate from college, I know firsthand that affordability is a huge factor in whether middle-class students believe there is a path for them to pursue their dreams through higher education. And I know that for many low-income students who graduate with enormous debt, that debt is a burden that affects job opportunities, home ownership, starting a business, and plans for marriage or for starting a family.

"Thus, I strongly support President Biden's decision to extend the pause on loan repayment and to cancel $10,000 of debt for the majority of borrowers, and up to $20,000 for Pell grant recipients. This decision will eliminate or reduce college debt for millions of Americans, improving opportunities, and stimulating our economy. This is welcome news!

"While I applaud this action, let's view it not as a solution for college debt, but as a down payment on the solution, a catalyst for further reforms. For every American child to have the opportunity to thrive, we must make college an affordable option for all. I will continue to pursue more sweeping reforms, from free community college tuition to legislation like my Affordable Loans for Any Student Act that guarantees affordable, simple income-based repayment plans for any federal loan borrower. Affordable college for every student will produce a more prosperous future for all."

Sen. Ron Wyden, via Twitter:

"Pursuing an education shouldn't land you in financial handcuffs. This is great news for every American being forced to make hard decisions between paying off their student loans and putting food on the table. I'll continue pushing for student debt relief at every turn."