Via Teleconference

6:32 P.M. EDT

MR. FERNÁNDEZ HERNÁNDEZ:  Good afternoon, everyone.  Thank you for joining our press call regarding the President’s ongoing efforts to cancel student debt.

Today’s call will begin with on-the-record remarks from White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. 

After the remarks, there will be a question-and-answer session that will be on background and attributable to “senior administration officials.”

With that, Karine, I will turn it over to you.


MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Hello?  Can you hear me?


MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, okay.  I apologize, guys.  I thought I was unmuted.

Thanks, Angelo.  And thanks, everyone, for joining. 

From day one, President Biden vowed to fix the broken student loan system and make sure education was a ticket to the middle class and not a barrier to opportunity.  And our administration has taken historic steps to cancel student debt for 4 million Americans so far. 

That’s 4 million people who have the breathing room to start businesses, buy homes, grow their families, and pursue their dreams. 

We’ve helped these borrowers through fixing Public Service Loan Forgiveness, so nurses, teachers, and other public service workers who have served their communities so — for 10 years can actually get the debt relief they are entitled to under the law.

Since taking office, nearly 900,000 people have gotten Public Service Loan Forgiveness.  Before we came into office, only 7,000 people had ever seen that relief since the program started over 15 years ago. 

The President launched a new repayment plan, the SAVE Plan — millions — pardon me — the SAVE Plan, which is the most affordable repayment plan ever, helping millions of borrowers have zero-dollar payments on their loans.

And earlier this year, we announced we were canceling the remaining student debt for over 150,000 borrowers enrolled in SAVE who took out loan balances of loans that — low balances of loans.  That debt cancellation came six months ahead of schedule. 

Those are just some of the ways that the President and — and the — and the Biden-Harris administration have delivered student debt relief to millions of Americans. 

And in 2021 [2022], President Biden announced that — announced a plan that would have elected of- — that would have canceled — I’m so sorry, guys — that would have canceled student debt for 40 million Americans.  But Republicans’ elected of- — elected officials sued us, and the Supreme Court sided with them, leaving — with them, leaving millions of people with the burden of student loan debt. 

On the day of that decision, President Biden promised he — that he wouldn’t stop fighting to deliver debt relief, and he announced that his Department of Education would immediately pursue a new path for debt cancelation. 

Tomorrow’s announcement is a result of that work. 

Tomorrow, the President will announce his administration’s new plans to cancel debt — cancel student debt.  And when combined with actions we’ve already taken, 30 million people would benefit from student debt relief under the Biden-Harris administration if these plans are fa- — finalized.

I’ll let the Secretary talk more about the specific plans, but in total, they would help 23 million people get all of their interest canceled if their balance today is more than it was when they started paying back their loans.

They would deliver $5,000 in relief to over 10 million borrowers.  And millions of borrowers would see their entire debts wiped out.

If these plans are finalized as proposed, our administration plans to start implementing some of these plans, such as interest cancellation, as early as this fall. 

Tomorrow, President Biden will deliver — will — will travel to Ma- — Madison, Wisconsin, where he will announce these plans and meet directly with borrowers who have benefited from his administration’s student debt relief efforts. 

We have Vice President, Second Gentleman, Secretary Cardona all fanning out across the country to meet with Americans who have had their debt cancelation — cancelled by the Biden adm- — -Harris administration and hear what his relief has meant to them.

Vice President Harris will be in Philadelphia, the Second Gentleman will be in Phoenix, and Secretary Cardona will be in New York City. 

I’ll close by saying that President Biden will use every tool available to cancel student loan debt for as many borrowers as possible, no matter how many times Republican elected officials try to stand in his way. 

Thank you.  And I’ll turn it over to Secretary Cardona.

Secretary, the floor is yours.

SECRETARY CARDONA:  Thank you very much, Karine.  And I really want to thank everyone for joining in today.

When I became Education Secretary a little over three years ago, President Biden looked at me, and he said, “We’ve got a broken system, and I need you to fix it.”

When the Supreme Court struck down the President’s boldest student debt relief plan, within hours, we said, “We won’t be deterred.”  We announced a new rulemaking process designed to provide borrowers relief under the Higher Education Act.

And today’s announcement shows that we’re continuing to fulfill our promises.

As you know, the negotiated rulemaking process is how we change and improve our higher education policies.  As a result of that process, which we started last fall, the administration is announcing new proposals today to deliver student debt relief to as many as 30 million Americans. 

That includes more than 25 million borrowers who owe more money than they did at the start of repayment due to runaway interest — again, a broken system.  It includes automatic debt relief for least 2 million borrowers who are eligible for existing loan forgiveness program or closed school loan discharges but who haven’t yet successfully enrolled in or applied for these programs.

It includes borrowers who have been living with their student loans for 20 years or more and who have not already had their debt forgiven.  And it includes borrowers who have been taken advantage of by career training programs that left them with high debt and low-value credentials or borrowers who attended schools with unacceptably high rates of student loan defaults.

If these plans are finalized as proposed, altogether, this administration will begin to cancel up to $20,000 in interest for millions of borrowers and full loan forgiveness for millions more this fall. 

That’s on top of the $146 billion in student loan debt relief for four million Americans that we’ve already approved, more than any other administration in our country’s history.

We’ve also expanded Pell Grants to 1.7 million more Americans and are holding predatory institutions that cheated students accountable. 

It bears repeating: We’re delivering as much relief as possible for as many borrowers as possible as quickly as possible. 

And what does that really mean for people?

It means breathing room.  It means freedom from feeling like your student loan bills compete with basic needs like grocery or healthcare.

It means the teacher I met in Philadelphia, who’d been teaching for 20 years, can finally afford to put a handicap-accessible bathtub in her house for her disabled husband thanks to the $20,000 in student loan debt relief she received.  Again, she’s been teaching for 20 years, and it was because of the debt relief that she can adjust the bathroom so that her husband can use it without issues.

Imagine that — working for 20 years and you can’t do that without the loan forgiveness.  That’s unacceptable.

Now, there’s an end to the nightmare of working hard, making loan payments, and still watching your loan balances get bigger and bigger month after month, and we’re proud to announce what we’re announcing today. 

Generations of students can now imagine themselves pursuing higher education instead of ruling it out early, sometimes as early as middle school, because of the cost.  And as a former school principal, I remember talking to young students who thought college was out of reach for them as young people.

President Biden often says the one word that describes America is “possibility.”  And when I think about all the possibility and all the potential we can unlock when — when young people see that they can afford and access higher education, I think this work is nothing short of transformative. 

That’s why we’re unapologetic about this fight.  Student loan forgiveness isn’t only about relief for today’s borrowers.  It’s about social mobility, economic prosperity, and creating an America that lives up to its highest ideals.

Again, thank you for joining.  And I’ll turn it back over to Angelo now, who will continue with the call. 

MR. FERNÁNDEZ HERNÁNDEZ:  Thank you, Secretary Cardona. 

At this point, we will move to the question-and-answer portion of the call.  As a reminder, this will be on background and attributable to “senior administration officials.”

Please use the “raise hand” function on Zoom.  And I will give you all a minute to queue up.

Okay.  We will start — as you are called on, please identify yourself and your outlet. 

We will start with Jennifer Jacobs.  Over to you.

Q    Hey there.  Karine mentioned that you think that this would be implemented in the fall.  But can you say, are you expecting that it would be implemented before the election?  That’s one question.

And then secondly, will this plan go to a comment period?  And if yes, there will be a comment period, when will that start?  Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  (Inaudible.)  So, yes, these rule- — these proposals will go out for public comment in the coming months.  And the goal is to start delivering relief early this fall.

MR. FERNÁNDEZ HERNÁNDEZ:  Thank you.  We will go to Michael next.  You should be unmuted now.

Q    Hey, thanks.  I appreciate being called on.  I have two questions sort of along the same lines of — of timing. 

One is, you know, given that the public comment period will ask for months and that — I think one of the — I can’t remember if it was the Secretary or Karine talked about some of the programs being implemented by the fall, is there — is there an exp- — I mean, it feels like the calendar is working against you here, that it’s unlikely that a lot of this is going to be implemented much before the election or before the fall. 

So, if you could talk a little bit more about which — which things you actually realistically think you could — you could put into effect. 

And then secondly, but related, is: Can you talk a little bit about the likelihood of a legal challenge?  And if there is a legal challenge, doesn’t that suggest that, you know, then you’re adding months and months on top of — on top of that, which — which puts you well beyond — you know, well into a potential second term?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  With regard to the timing question, this is not outside the norm for what we’ve done to turn around rules from draft to final by the early fall.  And we do anticipate beginning to cancel the outstanding interest for borrowers early this fall and then working on debt relief for millions of others. 

I’ll defer the questions on the legal challenges to others.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah, just to echo [senior administration official] and, you know, the Secretary: The President’s goal has been to deliver as much relief to as many people as possible as quickly as possible.  And so, you know, we are focused on that goal within the constraints of what we can do.  And [senior administration official] talked a little bit about, you know, our sense of where we are on that right now. 

I think, with respect to the legal questions, you know, we know that some Republicans in Congress and some Republican attorneys general have opposed the administration’s efforts to prevent millions of middle-class Americans from receiving student debt relief.  And we know some of them have even challenged the President’s work to fix administration of flawed programs that were originally established by Congress through bipartisan legislation, even where that work is clearly legal. 

So, it is unfortunate that Republican politicians have fought to deny breathing room to millions of working families who are struggling with student debt.  But after the Supreme Court weighed in on our original debt relief program, the President was quite clear, and he directed his administration to develop an alternative plan.  And this plan is being done under the Secretary’s longstanding authority under the Higher Education Act. 

You know, we have studied the Supreme Court’s decision carefully.  We intend to pursue these regulations in a way that is entirely consistent with that decision.  The plans differ from the administration’s prior pandemic relief proposal in a number of significant ways, and the Department’s proceeding under different legal authority, which is longstanding.  And the plans involve different considerations by providing targeted relief to borrowers with particular circumstances. 

So, you know, this isn’t the same plan.  And we feel confident going forward.

MR. FERNÁNDEZ HERNÁNDEZ:  Thanks, [senior administration official].  We’ll go to Zachary next.  You should be unmuted now.

Q    Hi there.  Yeah, thanks for doing this.  So, again, just following up on timing here.  So, you say that you’re expected to begin implementing some of this stuff by the fall.  Can you help me understand how that’s possible if the regulation that went through the neg reg isn’t expected to go into effect by July of next year? 

And then, when can we expect the NPRM?  Is that going to be next month, a month after that?  You know, [senior administration official], you said “in the coming months.”

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I don’t have an exact date for you on the NPRM, but it is coming. 

And then the Secretary has the ability to designate provisions for early implementation.  As you may recall, we early implemented some parts of the SAVE program, which is why borrowers are already seeing more of their income protected.  It’s why they’re not seeing their balances grow from accumulating interest and why we are beginning to provide relief to borrowers with lower original loans for college now.

MR. FERNÁNDEZ HERNÁNDEZ:  Thank you.  We will go to Katie next.  You should be unmuted now.

Q    Hi, thanks.  This is Katie Lobosco at CNN.  Can you say, like, whether or not — are all these proposals, like, a one-time thing?  Like, at one point in time, people who qualify are going to get the debt relief, or could someone possibly qualify, like, years later?

And also, if I’m — and just for clarification, it seems like the interest cancellation is the biggest part of that.  Like, that would be 23 out of possibly 26 million people who are getting debt relief.  I just want to make sure that that’s how I should be understanding this.  Thanks.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  It’s a mixture in these proposals.  I think, taken together with the other things the President has done, the goal is to, as the Secretary said, solve the student loan crisis and make loans more affordable on a permanent basis. 

The interest forgiveness is currently crafted as a one-time benefit, for example, but going forward, borrowers will benefit from substantially more favorable treatment through the SAVE program and other borrowers will benefit from revised rules around interest capitalization. 

So, overall, it is an attempt to build upon the progress the President has made to make sure that no borrowers are left with loans they can’t afford to repay and to substantially reduce the burden of student loans and give borrowers additional breathing room.



SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  — (inaudible) thing that [senior administration official] said, you know, there are a lot of different pieces here.  And one thing to keep in mind is that, you know, there is potential overlap between the different populations, you know, that are subject to the various forms of relief that we’re proposing here.  And so, you know, in terms of the total numbers — right? — you know, people could be eligible for multiple channels.  And then, obviously, going forward, borrowers have access to programs like SAVE and PSLF. 

So, you know, we believe we’re going to reach 30 million people, but, you know, underneath that, people could be accessing, you know, various provisions.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  And — and just to pile on on [senior administration official]’s last point about SAVE.   In SAVE, which is an ongoing program that’s widely available, if you have small balances, you can get forgiveness in as little as 10 years.  If you are repaying for 20 or 25 years, you get forgiveness.  And if you have a lower income, you can have zero payment and you’re not accruing interest. 

And, in fact, the interest provision we’re talking about here is providing retrospectively, going backwards, an interest benefit that is available to everyone in SAVE right now on a forward-looking basis. 

So, if you are paying back zero dollars or low le- — low amounts in the SAVE program every month, you’re not accruing interest.  And that’s because of the benefit of forgiveness of interest that’s built into SAVE.

MR. FERNÁNDEZ HERNÁNDEZ:  Thank you.  We will go to Michael next.  You should be unmuted now.

Q    Hey, it’s Michael Stratford at Politico.  Thanks for doing the call. 

I’m wondering if you can just walk us through the math of how you get to the 30 million figure and if you could give us a little more detail on what exactly that figure includes and maybe doesn’t include. 

It doesn’t look like you have, for example, an estimate for the hardship category.  And there was also, I think in one of the fact sheets, a number of 10 million borrowers getting at least $5,000 in debt relief or more.  I’m wondering if you can sort of be more specific about how these numbers all fit together. 


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I can start.  I think we will have greater detail in coming months as we produce the additional rules that you have heard about.  And so — so, there will be an opportunity to look under the hood more. 

But what we can say is that there are 25 million people benefiting from the interest forgiveness provision here.  And there are 4 million people getting full debt forgiveness.  And there are 10 million people getting more than $10,000 in forgiveness.  And that when you sum the effects of all the forgiveness provisions that we are talking about here, you get over that 30 million figure.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah, just to add to that.  As [senior administration official] said, you know, 25 million in this interest category.  There’s a number — there’s another 2 million, approximately, we think are in the sort of eligible but ha- — you know, for forgiveness — but haven’t applied, mostly due to SAVE.  And then we have about 2 million — around 2 million that are in the category of loans that are about 20 years or more old. 

And then in the category of low financial value programs, we think that that is, you know, about a fifth of a million existing borrowers and more sort of into the future. 

And as you noted, with respect to hardship, you know, that will be an additional population as well that will cover additional people.

MR. FERNÁNDEZ HERNÁNDEZ:  Thank you.  We will go to Andrew next.  You should be unmuted now.

Q    Thanks. 

Can you talk a little bit about if you’ve projected the potential economic effects of this sort of mass-level forgiveness?  Any concern that it could be inflationary? 

And then, on the legal theory, you said you studied the — the Supreme Court opinion.  On the first page of the opinion in — in June last year, Justice Roberts said that the Higher Education Act can cancel or reduce loans in — in, quote, “certain limited circumstances.”  Any concern that he’s sort of sending a signal that a wide use of this would get struck down by the Court?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I’ll take the second question first. 

You know, as I noted, we’ve studied the opinion carefully.  I think, you know, what you hear us talking about rolling out here is a variety of specific interventions and proposals that address specific situations and specific populations in ways that we feel very confident are covered by what the Secretary’s longstanding authority under HEA allows him to do.  And we’re confident that we’re acting within the scope of the law, as set forth by the Supreme Court. 

On the question of economic impact, you know, we have some CEA analysis that’s coming that we can follow up with you on around the plan.  I would say, generally, we know that student debt relief leads to economic mobility.  We know it leads to people contributing to the economy, being in a better position to be able to, for example, take out mortgages to buy homes and loans to start businesses. 

So, we know it’s good for people.  We know it’s good for the economy. 

We’re not concerned about an inflationary effect based on the analysis the CEA has done, you know, and we’ll have more detail on that that we can share. 

But we do feel good about its effect on economic growth and economic mobility and improving the ability of families to really be able to get that breathing room that the President has talked about and that the Secretary talked about in these sorts of situations.

MR. FERNÁNDEZ HERNÁNDEZ:  Thank you.  We’ll have a time for a couple more questions.  We will go into Ayelet next.  You should be unmuted now.

Q    Hey.  This is Ayelet Sheffey with Business Insider. 

Can you confirm whether all of this relief will be automatic?  Or will there be any actions that borrowers have to take to be eligible?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Our goal is for the vast majority of this relief to be automatic.  Obviously, when you start talking about hardship, there are some things there that we’re looking to make as automatic as possible, but there may be details that we don’t have available to us.  But our goal is for the overwhelming majority of things like interest, loans that are older, borrowers that attended programs that didn’t deliver financial value — to do that all automatically.

MR. FERNÁNDEZ HERNÁNDEZ:  Thank you.  And we will go to Michael Jones next.  You should be unmuted now.

Q    Thanks so much for doing this.  And thanks for taking my question.  Michael Jones from Once Upon a Hill. 

I’m curious — you know, obviously the Supreme Court made the decision last year.  The President has taken a lot of executive action.  I’m curious: Behind the scenes, have there been any conversations with congressional leaders, with members of any — either party to see if there’s any consensus around any legislative action that could be taken by Congress? 

A lot of this conversation is focused on the Supreme Court decision and the President’s, I think, executive actions.  I understand the mar- — the margins aren’t there, you know, vote wise for as much as the President would probably like.  But I’m curious if there’s any — been any conversation behind the scenes with Congress about any legislative action on this issue.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thanks, Michael, for the question. 

You know, we can’t speak to that specifically.  But what I can say is, you know, as you know, there are things that could be done by legislation and there are things that the President can do administratively under preexisting authority, which has been granted to him by Congress. 

So, for example, when you think about SAVE and PSLF, these are programs that have been created and improved pursuant to acts of Congress.  And when you think about the authority in the Higher Education Act, you know, that is a law that was passed by Congress and authority that was delegated to the Secretary. 

And so, consistent with the President’s directives to us, to his team, to do as much as we can within the law, you know, we are using that as the basis for the announcements that we’re making, you know, today and tomorrow.

MR. FERNÁNDEZ HERNÁNDEZ:  Thank you.  And our last question will come from the CBS desk, if you could please identify yourself.

Q    Hi.  This is Bo Erickson. 

Just a clarification on the interest component here.  Is it $20,000 of interest for everyone but then lower-income and middle-income borrowers can have more than $20,000 forgiven in interest?  Can you just clarify that?




SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Oh, go ahead, [senior administration official].

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  It’s — it’s $20,000 for everyone.  And then, if you are in either the SAVE or the IDR plan and you have a low or middle income — so, a hundred — up to $120,000 for an individual or $240,000 for a married couple — then you can have all of your accrued interest forgiven.

MR. FERNÁNDEZ HERNÁNDEZ:  Thank you.  And that’s all the time we have today. 

The embargo time for this call and the materials will now be 5:00 a.m. Eastern time — 5:00 a.m. Eastern time.  You all will receive a note from us with embargoed materials and the corrected time.

Thank you, again, for joining us, and we look forward to hearing from you tomorrow.

7:02 P.M. EDT

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