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Why the Delaware attorney general wants President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in student loans

Sarah Gamard
Delaware News Journal

In President Joe Biden's home state, Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings is among the attorneys general pushing for him to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt for all borrowers despite the president's resistance toward the plan.

Jennings, a progressive Democrat, was one of 17 attorneys general to sign a Feb. 19 letter to U.S. Senate and House leadership showing support for two congressional resolutions that call on Biden, a moderate, to use his executive authority to cancel the loans.

Jennings declined an interview request, but a spokesman said she believes student loan debt is a crisis that will only keep spiraling without "serious action."

"Beyond that, we'll let the letter speak for itself," her spokesman said.

Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings wants President Joe Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt.

The letter states that canceling the loans would boost the country's struggling economy and help millions of Americans in dire need of relief.

The attorneys general say they are "keenly aware" of the burden that federal student loans have on their states' residents because they are responsible for enforcing consumer protection laws.

The attorneys general routinely get complaints from borrowers who can't navigate the "abstruse and opaque repayment or forgiveness plans," and those people are at risk of "catastrophic" consequences such as the seizure of Social Security retirement or disability income if they can't pay off the loans.

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The letter came just a few days after Biden made clear during a CNN town hall that he won't enact a $50,000 student debt forgiveness plan, just as congressional Democrats endorsed such a program.

"My point is: I understand the impact of debt, and it can be debilitating," Biden said during that town hall. "I am prepared to write off the $10,000 debt but not $50 [thousand] because I don't think I have the authority to do it."

Before his inauguration, Biden promised he would encourage Congress to pass legislation to erase $10,000 in federal student loan debt per person.

Before his inauguration, Biden promised he would encourage Congress to pass legislation to erase $10,000 in federal student loan debt per person.

Progressives have pushed for a much more ambitious plan to cancel up to $50,000 in student loan debt for most borrowers. Biden has argued the president doesn't have unilateral power to cancel student debt.

The attorneys general letter argues that many Americans were crippled by debt before last year's COVID-19 pandemic struck and that the for-profit school industry has disproportionately targeted and harmed people of color.

The letter also argues that canceling student debt of up to $50,000 would give immediate financial relief to people struggling through the pandemic and recession and would also give a "much-needed boost" to the economy.

"Many struggling borrowers are victims of predatory for-profit colleges that lure students with false promises and leave them with worthless degrees, few job prospects, and insurmountable debt," the letter reads.

"Borrowers deserve and desperately need relief from their Federal student loan burden, and they need that relief immediately."

According to the Institute for College Access and Success, student borrowers who graduated in 2019 from public or private nonprofit colleges held on average $28,950 in debt.

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This article includes USA TODAY reporting.

Sarah Gamard covers government and politics for Delaware Online/The News Journal. Reach her at (302) 324-2281 or sgamard@delawareonline.com. Follow her on Twitter @SarahGamard.