President Joe Biden had a clear response when asked Tuesday by a CNN town hall attendee how he would enact a $50,000 student debt forgiveness plan.
“I will not make that happen,” answered Biden.
The president’s dismissal comes as some congressional Democrats have endorsed a student debt forgiveness program that would cancel up to $50,000 in debt for most Americans.
“My point is: I understand the impact of debt, and it can be debilitating,” Biden assured. “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,” said Biden, who has argued the president doesn’t have unilateral power to cancel student debt, an idea that has gained traction among progressives.
In December, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., jointly called on Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in student loan debt. Dozens of Democrats in the House of Representatives introduced a joint resolution in February that also calls on the president to cancel student debt.
‘Five days a week’:Biden recommits to his goal for reopening K-8 schools
More:Governors tell Biden they want more COVID vaccine coordination and reporting clarity
Biden has resisted such calls thus far, arguing Tuesday that debt forgiveness should ideally depend “on whether or not you go to a private university or a public university.”. The federal government should not forgive debt for students who went to elite schools like “Harvard and Yale and Penn,” the president said.
Biden said student loans should have zero percent interest, a move he enacted alongside a repayment freeze through September, as well as expanding student loan forgiveness for public sector workers.
Biden also said any student debt forgiveness would need to be justified against other policy priorities.
More:Here are all the executive orders President Joe Biden has signed so far
Fact check:Student loan debt still exists, despite viral social media claim
The president’s comments were met with swift criticism from some progressives, who see student debt forgiveness as a moral imperative and economic opportunity.
“Who cares what school someone went to? Entire generations of working class kids were encouraged to go into more debt under the guise of elitism. This is wrong,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., tweeted in response to the president.
“Nowhere does it say we must trade-off early childhood education for student loan forgiveness. We can have both,” Ocasio Cortez continued.
Exclusive:States to receive biggest boost yet in vaccine doses, White House tells governors
Progressive Democrats have campaigned on student debt forgiveness for years. A proposal of cancelling up to $50,000 in student debt was a cornerstone of both Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Warren’s 2020 presidential bids.
Critics argue that such plans are poorly targeted and regressive, mostly benefitting the already wealthy or graduates who earn more on average. Defenders say many low-income students who do not graduate maintain some debt that may be financially crippling.
According to Federal Reserve data, Americans hold about $1.7 trillion in student loan debt. Student borrowers who graduated in 2019 from public or private nonprofit colleges held on average $28,950 in debt, according to The Institute for College Access and Success.