WASHINGTON - The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest labor union, denounces the recent actions of Republicans in Congress, who have wielded the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to strike down President Biden’s critically important Student Debt Relief Plan. This regressive move reflects a gross disregard for the millions of Americans burdened by student loans and their hopes for a brighter future.
“The Biden administration's student debt relief plan, designed to alleviate the overwhelming financial burden placed upon countless individuals and families, was a beacon of hope for students across the nation. It represented an opportunity to level the playing field and ensure that higher education remains accessible to all, regardless of economic background. However, the decision of Republican lawmakers to attempt to dismantle this vital plan is an affront to the principles of equity, fairness, and educational opportunity,” said NEA President Becky Pringle.
“By invoking the Congressional Review Act, Republicans have chosen to undermine the will of the American people, who have consistently voiced their support for comprehensive student loan reform. Instead, Congressional Republicans want to send a bill for billions of dollars to Americans who have already received debt relief. The Student Debt Relief Plan put forth by the Biden administration aimed to provide relief to borrowers by not only cancelling up to $20,000 of federal student loans per borrower who meet certain income thresholds, but also extending the payment pause on federal student loans. These measures were designed to alleviate the suffocating burden of student loans, allowing individuals to invest in their futures, contribute to the economy, and pursue their dreams.”
Invoking the CRA would affect more than 40 million borrowers across every state and congressional district. The actions of Republicans in Congress not only disregard the overwhelming support for student debt relief but also threaten a promise owed to our nation’s public service employees through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. Since 2021, more than 615,000 educators and public service workers have received PSLF, equating in over $42 billion in loan forgiveness. This CRA would unwind the pause on federal student loan payments and could even reinstate 157,000 loans forgiven through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. Loan balances would rise with the addition of accumulated payments and interest, creating further economic hardship for borrowers and families already struggling to make ends meet.
The CRA would also block President Biden’s plan to cancel student loan debt for people of modest means—90 percent of those who would benefit earn less than $75,000 a year. In the weeks before the plan was challenged in court, nearly 26 million borrowers applied or were deemed automatically eligible for a chance at debt relief; the Department of Education formally approved 16 million applications.
The astronomical student debt crisis in the United States stands as a significant obstacle to progress, hindering social mobility, stifling entrepreneurship, and impeding economic growth. The decision to strike down the Biden student debt relief plan will exacerbate these issues, leaving millions of Americans trapped in a cycle of debt and limiting their ability to thrive.
The NEA stands firmly behind President Biden's commitment to addressing the student debt crisis and expanding access to higher education. We call upon Republicans in Congress to prioritize the needs of the American people over partisan politics and work collaboratively to find meaningful solutions to the student debt crisis. It is crucial that our elected representatives listen to the voices of the people they serve and recognize the imperative to support policies that advance educational equity and opportunity.
As the largest union representing educators in the United States, the NEA will continue to advocate tirelessly for comprehensive student debt relief and access to quality education for all. We remain resolute in our commitment to empowering students, educators, and communities, and we will work diligently to ensure that every American has the opportunity to pursue their educational dreams without being burdened by insurmountable debt.
In 2021, NEA released a report on educators working in pre-K–12 and higher education institutions regarding student loan debt. It is the first research of its kind with new insights into the physical, mental and financial health of educators. In line with research on student loan debt within the general population, the study found that student loans play a significant role in the financial lives of many educators and have disproportionate impacts on specific subgroups.
Important findings within the report include:
- About three-fifths (59%) of educators with unpaid loans reported that the debt had a bearing on their ability to build up their emergency savings and four in 10 said that paying off their student loans impacted their mental, emotional, and/or physical well-being.
- Black educators took on significantly more debt than other racial/ethnic groups, with an average initial total of $68,300 among those who took out loans, compared to $54,300 for White educators and $56,400 for Latin(o/a/x), Hispanic, and Chican(o/a/x) educators. Sixteen percent of Black educators who used student loans borrowed $105,000 or more compared to 11 percent of White educators.
- Black educators with unpaid student loans also had the highest average current debt at $71,600, over $13,000 more than White educators and $20,000 more than Latin(o/a/x), Hispanic, and Chican(o/a/x) educators. This high average is due in part to nearly one in five Black educators with unpaid debt carrying a current balance of at least $105,000.
- Over a quarter of educators ages 61 and up who took out student loans still have a balance, and within that group, more than a third have $45,000 or more left to pay off.
- Two-thirds of educators ages 61 and up with unpaid student loans report that paying down their debt has affected their ability to save for retirement. Even half of the youngest educators— those ages 18–35—said that this was a predicament for them.
NEA is making principals and experts on student debt available for interview. Requests can be sent to Richard Allen Smith, NEA Communications, at [email protected].