In a recent interview with Insider, John King told the publication that Biden has the authority to cancel $50,000 in student loans as the pandemic has heightened the urgency to provide relief and correct a “policy mistake.”
In a recent report by Africa Business Insider, this month, the former President Obama’s secretary of education called for a broad cancellation of student debt.
In addition, he thinks that President Joe Biden has the capability to go beyond his campaign pledge of $10,000 in loan forgiveness per borrower.
“The proposal from Senator Warren and Senator Schumer makes a lot of sense,” King said of the plan he supports, which was drafted by two of the most vocal lawmakers.”If you were to go to $50,000 of debt cancellation, that would give complete relief to more than 36 million Americans. So that certainly would be a great step forward.”
In an opinion piece for Insider last month, King outlined why Biden could and should cancel student loans. Later, he stated, in an interview with Insider, that the pandemic offers a unique opportunity for student loan relief unlike when he was Obama’s Education secretary. King said borrowers still need more help despite the two-year pause in payments.
In the wake of the pandemic, King said that it is the perfect time to fix the education deficit that led to the $1.7 trillion student-debt crisis.
“We have a very different context today, with the COVID economic crisis and the opportunity to emerge from that crisis with really a New Deal moment where we tackle deeper systemic challenges,” King said.
“Higher education should be viewed as a public good, and we all benefit when students get access to and complete post-secondary education.”
‘This is really a moment to correct a policy mistake’
King, who is running for governor of Maryland, said community colleges are not free and low-income students get inadequate financial aid. In particular, he mentioned the Pell Grant, which accounted for 80% of college costs in the 1980s, but now only covers one-third because of skyrocketing tuition.
“This is really a moment to correct a policy mistake of the last 40 years in terms of federal and state disinvestment, particularly from public higher education,” King said.
Under Obama, King had hoped to make community college free, but a Republican majority in Congress prevented it from becoming a reality. However, it’s something that’s on Biden’s agenda, as well as increasing the maximum Pell Grant to increase college access for low-income students.
“I’m going to get it done,” Biden said.
“And if I don’t, I’ll be sleeping alone for a long time,” he said, likely referring to his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, who is a community college educator.
To prevent debt from increasing after potential cancellation, a number of lawmakers have suggested tying tuition-free community college to broader loan relief. Michigan Rep. Andy Levin previously told Insider the measure was about “fixing the current problem and trying to prevent it from being such a problem in the future.”
‘The authority is there’ if Biden wants to cancel student debt
King, who assisted Obama with reforms to the forgiveness program for students who had been defrauded by for-profit schools, and to income-driven repayment plans designed to make monthly payments more affordable for borrowers.
Biden is yet to release the contents of the memo, so borrowers may not know whether broad relief is on the way, but King thinks the memo should mention that the authority is provided under the Higher Education Act.
“I do think the consensus of lawyers who looked at this question is that the authority is there,” King said.
“And the president during the campaign talked about his commitment to canceling debt. And so this is now the moment to follow through on that promise from the campaign.”