In a statement, President Biden said the current jobs numbers showed that “we have the tools that will allow us to beat Covid-19 and keep our economy recovering at a record rate.” But he added, “We know there is more work to do, and the road will still be long for many people — especially for the one in six adults and one in three young people who have federal student loans.”
Notably, the Education Department emphasized that January was a “definitive end date” — this will be the fourth extension since the pandemic began — as the Biden administration faces mounting pressure from Democrats to erase up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt.
An official familiar with the department’s plans said that the January expiration date was based on financial aid cycles and delinquency patterns, and that the emphasis on its finality was intended to give borrowers more certainty than the rolling extensions have provided. The department is also preparing for the departure of major loan servicers — including the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, known as PHEAA, which handles millions of accounts — and will use the four months to transition.
The announcement drew cheers from advocates for student borrowers.
Persis Yu, the director of National Consumer Law Center’s Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project, said there were “too many moving parts to successfully start federal student loan repayment,” citing the loan servicer shake-up.
“Borrowers are collectively taking a huge sigh of relief at the news that the federal student loan payment pause has been extended once again,” Ms. Yu said in a statement. “The student loan system is not ready to resume repayment on Oct. 1, and President Biden has made the right decision to postpone repayment.”
The extension is likely to amplify calls for the Biden administration to cancel student loan debt outright.
In a joint statement, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Representative Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts — all Democrats who have urged Mr. Biden to cancel student loan debt by executive order — said the pause “provided an enormous relief to millions of borrowers facing a disastrous financial cliff” but did not go far enough.
“Our broken student loan system continues to exacerbate racial wealth gaps and hold back our entire economy,” the statement said. “Student debt cancellation is one of the most significant actions that President Biden can take right now to build a more just economy and address racial inequity. We look forward to hearing the administration’s next steps to address the student debt crisis.”