(The Hill) — Education Secretary Miguel Cardona wouldn’t say in a recent interview whether the Biden administration plans to extend a current freeze on federal student loan repayments, but he indicated a decision will be made “soon.”
“While I don’t have an announcement here today, I will tell you we’re having conversations daily with the White House and borrowers will know directly and soon from us when a decision is made,” Cardona said during an interview on “CBS Mornings” on Tuesday.
A nationwide pause on federal student loan payments and interest accrual is set to lapse at the end of August, after being extended several times under both the prior and current administrations since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Advocates and Democrats have pressed for the pause to be extended again to provide additional relief to borrowers, particularly as rising inflation has driven up the cost on goods this year.
At the same time, President Biden has also faced growing pressure from advocates and members of his own party to provide broad-based cancellation of debt in form of forgiveness of $10,000 or $50,000 in loans.
Earlier this year, more than 90 Democrats in the House and Senate called on the president to “cancel student debt now” in a letter.
Biden has pushed Congress to send legislation to his desk canceling debt, often saying it’s up to Congress to do so, but he’s also asked Cardona to determine if he has the authority as president to forgive a certain amount of loans.
Progressives have called on Biden to use executive authority to provide the relief, pointing to previous instances in which the administration has wiped out student debt for some borrowers.
Overall, the Biden administration has approved nearly $32 billion in student loan relief for more than 1.6 million borrowers, many among them who attended schools later found to have done business fraudulently or ones that misled students.
Other relief has benefited those participating in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program and borrowers with total and permanent disabilities.
Reports emerged earlier this year that Biden was weighing a plan to provide $10,000 in student debt forgiveness for borrowers in certain income brackets.
However, administration officials have not publicly determined their plans for forgiveness or an extension of the repayment pause.
Cardona was pressed on Tuesday about the hold-up that’s kept officials from reaching a decision thus far.
“I can’t get into the conversations we’re having daily, but I will tell you that from day one, the president’s been very clear about making sure we’re leading with students first,” he said.