Higher Ed, Not Debt Partners Respond to President Biden Extending the Student Loan Payment Pause Through May, 2022

On December 22, 2021, President Biden announced he is extending the federal student loan payment pause until May 1, 2022. The pause was previously set to expire February 1, 2022, and this 90-day extension arrived as cases of COVID-19 spiked with the omicron variant. 

In an official White House statement, President Biden says “That pause has given 41 million Americans badly-needed breathing room during the economic upheaval caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic […] Meanwhile, the Department of Education will continue working with borrowers to ensure they have the support they need to transition smoothly back into repayment and advance economic stability for their own households and for our nation.” 

This latest extension arrives after months of advocacy from borrowers, advocates, and experts, urging the administration to extend the pause yet again, with a vast majority of borrowers reporting they were not prepared or able to resume payments in February. President Biden’s decision is being widely celebrated as a step in the right direction. 

See below for what else our Higher Ed, Not Debt partner organizations and allies had to say about this news. The full statements by organizations are accessible via hyperlinks. 

Center for American Progress Senior Director of Higher Education Jared Bass:

“Today’s announcement to extend the payment pause is another example of the administration’s leadership and responsiveness to the ever-evolving challenges posed by the pandemic. In one week, the omicron variant increased from 13 percent to 73 percent of cases in the United States. This new wave of COVID-19 cases could undermine workers’ ability to remain on the job safely. It also poses the risk of exacerbating long-standing inequities in education, the economy, and health outcomes by race and ethnicity, especially for Black borrowers.

Critically, this decision will give student loan borrowers the economic security they need to weather this new variant and highlights the administration’s commitment to helping them.”

Center for Responsible Lending Outreach Coordinator Jaylon Herbin:

“We commend the President for safeguarding student loan borrowers at a time of profound economic uncertainty. The extension of the payment pause is a critical step toward restoring economic stability for borrowers and their families. We urge the Biden Administration to continue extending the payment pause until the pandemic and the associated economic crisis have been overcome.

We also urge the Administration to provide more permanent and substantial student loan relief in the form of $50,000 cancellation per borrower. Millions of Americans, especially borrowers of color and low-income borrowers who are disproportionately affected by the burdens of an unforgiving public health crisis and slow wage growth, need long-lasting relief.”

NAACP Youth and College Director Wisdom Cole:

“We can finally take a breath knowing that student loan payments will be paused again. But true relief will come with the cancellation of student loan debt at a MINIMUM of $50,000 for all borrowers.

To provide financial relief during Omicron, cancel student debt. To boost the economy, cancel student debt. To address the racial wealth gap, cancel student debt. And to fulfill your campaign promises, cancel student debt.”

National Consumer Law Center Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project Interim Director Abby Shafroth:

“Today’s announcement means that over the holidays, struggling student loan borrowers will not be forced to choose between paying student loans and paying for rent, medicines, childcare, and other necessities. Restarting federal student loan payments on February 1 would have been a disaster for millions of low-income borrowers across the country, borrowers who are disproportionately women and people of color. These borrowers have not yet recovered from the pandemic, and their future looks even more uncertain as the impact of the Omicron variant and increasing inflation threatens to further destabilize their finances. Today’s announcement means that these borrowers will not face the devastating collection practices the U.S. Department of Education deploys after a borrower defaults–including seizure of Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit payments in tax refunds and siphoning money directly from paychecks and Social Security benefits on February 1, 2022. We hope that the Department and the remaining student loan servicers will take this opportunity to take meaningful steps to fix the student loan system before it is turned back on.

While we celebrate this announcement, there is still much work to be done in fixing the broken federal student loan system. The Department should proceed with Operation Fresh Start and provide immediate relief to borrowers in default by removing their accounts from default – providing a fresh start to 7 million borrowers with loans in default across the country. In addition, we urge President Biden to act now to cancel a portion of all federal student loan borrowers’ debt to prevent the student loan crisis from continuing to balloon.” 

Student Borrower Protection Center Executive Director and Cofounder Mike Pierce:

“Today’s announcement is welcome news for tens of millions of student loan borrowers; but now the work on their behalf starts in earnest.

Before the pandemic, our nation was in the midst of a $1.7 trillion student debt crisis with more than 1-in-4 borrowers already struggling. The Biden Administration has five short months to repair this badly broken system. This means ensuring that public servants, borrowers with disabilities, those ripped off by predatory schools, and so many others don’t get bills they shouldn’t have to pay. This also requires immediate action to protect more than eight million borrowers in default from the government’s punishing and unaccountable debt collection machine.

President Biden promised to build back better— and that means ensuring that millions of Americans with student loans are not thrown back into a broken system. Borrowers must be granted the debt relief they deserve. The time for action is now.”

Last month, a coalition of more than 125 organizations called on President Biden to extend the pause on student loan payments until the administration fixes the broken student loan system and delivers promised debt relief to millions of people with student debt.”

Student Debt Crisis Center President Natalia Abrams and Executive Director Cody Hounanian:  

“The Omicron variant is a scary reminder that the pandemic is still a serious concern and Americans cannot be crushed by student debt as they shoulder this health and economic crisis. The Biden Administration must recognize the urgency of the situation and use the tools available to the President to offer relief. We applaud President Biden for extending the pause and ask him to also deliver on the promise to cancel student debt for everyone as part of his COVID-19 emergency response. 

Last week, 39,000 SDCC supporters sent letters to the White House calling for the Biden Administration to extend pandemic relief. We full-heartedly believe that today’s news is a direct result of these actions and we will continue to amplify the voices of everyday Americans impacted by student debt to create real change.”

Student Defense President and Cofounder Aaron Ament:  

“President Biden and Secretary Cardona’s decision to extend the moratorium is the right one and a testament to the power of organizing and advocacy. Americans are still feeling the effects of the ongoing pandemic, and the Department has much work to do to reform its collection and loan relief practices before considering a restart. We appreciate that this administration has demonstrated its willingness to listen to student and consumer advocates, and we look forward to working with them to do more, faster to address the student debt crisis.”

Young Invincibles Director of Higher Education, Workforce Policy and Advocacy Ernest Ezeugo:

“We are glad to see the Biden-Harris administration listen to young people and take decisive action to extend relief to student loan borrowers and their families by extending the pause on student loan repayment. This extension recognizes the urgency of this moment. As the Omicron variant changes the landscape of the pandemic and important relief provisions like the expanded Child Tax Credits expire, every step taken to help young people whether this health and economic crisis is critical.

This repayment pause has been a lifeline for borrowers, providing the financial flexibility for borrowers to afford other bills like rent, car loans, and medicine, among other expenses. We encourage the Biden-Harris administration to take more permanent action by fulfilling their campaign promise of broad student debt cancellation.

Student debt remains a crisis in this country. Today’s actions show the Biden-Harris administration knows this, and what they do next will dictate their legacy on the economic wellbeing of young people and the nation.” 

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