A vulnerable Senate Democrat pilloried Biden's $10,000 student-loan forgiveness plan — unless it's paired with bigger reforms

A vulnerable Senate Democrat pilloried Biden's $10,000 student-loan forgiveness plan — unless it's paired with bigger reforms
Sen. Michael BennetTom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images
  • Sen. Michael Bennet lambasted Biden's potential plan to forgive some student loan debt.
  • He's urging the White House to pair that with other initiatives to fix a broken lending system.

Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado lambasted the White House's plan to cancel at least $10,000 in student loans per borrower on Monday evening.

Bennet, a Democrat who is facing an increasingly tough re-election campaign in the November midterms, argued that the Biden administration should pair student loan forgiveness with bigger reforms to fix a lending system that's saddled students with more debt over the years.

"Americans deserve more than just student debt relief," Bennet said during a Senate floor speech. "Across the board cancellation of college debt does nothing to address the absurd cost of college or fix our broken student loan program."

He went on: "It offers nothing to Americans who paid off their college debts or those who chose a lower price college to go to as a way of avoiding going into debt or taking on debt. It ignores the majority of Americans who never went to college, some of whom have debts that are just as staggering and just as unfair."

Some reforms he backs include overhauling the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program and simplifying income-driven repayment plans. The Colorado Democrat also pitched tying student debt relief to state median incomes to further restrict who may qualify. The household median income in Colorado is roughly $75,000, per the Census Bureau.


Bennet suggested that the estimated $230 billion price tag of the reported Biden student loan forgiveness proposal could be directed instead toward a two-year extension of a monthly child allowance that expired last year or as a down payment to combat the worsening climate crisis.

Bennet's remarks underscore lingering anxiety among some Democrats over Biden's potential move to forgive some student loan debt by summer's end. Some like Bennet are concerned that its benefits will flow to affluent individuals with college or graduate degrees.

That could further expose the party to blistering GOP attacks that Democrats are bailing out the privileged over working-class Americans who never attended college, triggering a political backlash.

As Insider previously reported, targeting student-loan relief to low-income borrowers could be administratively difficult — especially given that loan forgiveness programs meant to target those who are low-income have failed due to paperwork difficulties.

One liberal activist strongly criticized Bennet. "Nearly 735,000 Coloradans have student loan debt with an average indebtedness of over $26,000," Melissa Byrne, an advocate to forgive student loan debt, told Insider. She said Bennet's "dismissal" of their debt load meant he needed to meet with additional borrowers to "fully learn the scope of the crisis."


Biden has not yet commented on any student-loan relief, and recent reports have suggested he is considering $10,000 in forgiveness for borrowers making under $150,000 a year. While Bennet is worried the relief might be too expansive, some of his colleagues have argued the opposite. Progressives like Sen. Bernie Sanders are pushing for all student debt to be canceled without any income caps.

Still, the only thing Biden's administration has made clear is that borrowers should prepare to resume paying off their debt after the current pandemic pause on student-loan payments expires after August 31. And borrowers might still have to wait a little while longer to learn of the relief that will hit their accounts — the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that, according to administration officials, Biden likely won't announce relief until July or August.

"The bigger question that should animate us on this floor isn't how much student debt to cancel, but how to create a pathway to economic security for every American who graduates from high school, including those who don't go get a four-year degree," Bennet said. "It should be how to build an economy that, when it grows, grows for everybody — not just the top ten percent."