ATLANTA — If you’ve been looking forward to paying off that student loan debt, Georgia Congressman Drew Ferguson has some good news for you.
He’s introduced a bill that he says will prevent the Biden administration from canceling student loan debt, ensuring the more than 43 million Americans who owe a total $1.6 trillion will have the right to pay off their debt in full.
“Hard-working Americans are not responsible for paying off the student loan debt of others,” Ferguson said in a statement. “The Biden Administration’s radical big government proposal would come at the expense of taxpayers — many of whom have fully paid off their student loans, worked hard to pay for their education, or chose not to enroll in college at all.”=
Ferguson introduced the bill, called the Student Loan Accountability Act, on June 9, along with fellow Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin. Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney introduced a similar bill in that chamber last month.
“Even though the president lacks statutory authority to implement a mass scale cancellation of student debt, the Student Loan Accountability Act puts this fundamentally unfair discussion to rest,” Ferguson said. “Instead, Congress must focus on market-driven solutions that bring down the cost of higher education, including reducing the government’s role in the student loan market.”
Those who oppose student debt forgiveness say it would be unfair to those who decided not to go to college because of the debt burden, as well as to those who already paid off their debts. They worry it could exacerbate inflation and would not address the root problem of sky-high tuition rates.
Adjusted for inflation, the average student loan debt has increased more than 300% since 1970, according to EducationData.org.
As of the end of 2021, more than 1.6 million Georgians owed about $68.6 billion, for an average debt of about $41,600, according to data from StudentAid.gov.
Many young Americans say they are unable to buy a house or start a family because of their debt.
Progressive members of the Democratic Party have called on President Biden to forgive significant amounts of student loan debt, with some like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders advocating eliminating all student debt and funding public universities with tax dollars rather than tuition.
Last year, Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock called for Biden to eliminate $50,000 in student debt via executive order. Earlier this year, Warnock and other lawmakers signed onto a letter urging Biden to forgive “a meaningful amount” of student debt.
Biden has been less fired up about the issue than younger and more progressive members of his party. On the campaign trail, he advocated forgiving $10,000 in student loans, which he is reportedly still considering.
Last month’s Democratic ballot for the Georgia primary election included a question about student loan forgiveness: “Should the United States remove obstacles to economic advancement by forgiving all student loan debt?” More than 85% of Democratic voters answered yes.
Borrowers are currently on a reprieve from paying their loans back because of the pandemic, but that is due to end Aug. 31 after four extensions.
Speaking before a U.S. Senate Appropriations subcommittee on June 7, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona suggested another extension was possible but did not say for sure whether it was in the cards.
“I don’t have any information now to share with you about when it would end or what the conversations are about when it’s going to be lifted,” he said.
“I know we have a date, and it could be that it’s extended, or it could be that it starts there, but what I will say is that our borrowers will have ample notice, and we’ll communicate that with you as well.”