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President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address Feb. 7, 2023, to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. Biden is set to use his 2024 State of the Union address to promote his vision for a second term. (AP) President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address Feb. 7, 2023, to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. Biden is set to use his 2024 State of the Union address to promote his vision for a second term. (AP)

President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address Feb. 7, 2023, to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. Biden is set to use his 2024 State of the Union address to promote his vision for a second term. (AP)

Matthew Crowley
By Matthew Crowley March 7, 2024

PolitiFact is tracking the status of 99 promises Joe Biden made as he campaigned for president in 2020. Our team researches and rates the status of each promise on a spectrum of progress. By our measure, the majority of his promises — 63% — are Stalled or In the Works; 27% were Kept, 6% were Compromises and 2% were Broken. 

Here's a closer look at the state of six of Biden’s promises. We’ll continue to update his progress in his fourth year.

President Joe Biden speaks about student loan debt relief Oct. 21, 2022, at Delaware State University in Dover, Delaware. (AP)
Biden’s promise to forgive student loan debt: incremental approach falls short of ‘all’ 

Following an incremental approach, Biden said his administration would cancel $1.2 billion more in debt for almost 153,000 borrowers. The forgiveness applies to people enrolled in the Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE) repayment plan. Biden launched this approach after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down his sweeping student loan forgiveness plan, which would have eliminated about $400 billion in student loans. 

Through executive actions, Biden has OK’d about $138 billion in student debt cancellation for almost 3.9 million borrowers. Under SAVE, borrowers who make monthly payments won’t have to pay interest on their loans. About 7.5 million people are enrolled in the plan, officials said; about 4.3 million of them have no monthly payment because of the plan’s expanded income exemption.

The Education Department said Biden’s administration has approved:

  • $56.7 billion for about 793,000 borrowers through changes to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.

  • $45.6 billion for 930,500 borrowers through improvements to income-driven repayment.

  • $11.7 billion for 513,000 borrowers with a total and permanent disability.

  • $22.5 billion for 1.3 million borrowers through closed school discharges, borrower defense, and related court settlements.

We will assess how close Biden came to eliminating debt for undergraduate borrowers earning up to $125,000 as the end of his term nears. For now, this promise remains In the Works.

Ryan Pontillo attaches an LG battery to a 2023 Chevrolet Bolt EV on June 15, 2023, at the General Motors Orion Assembly plant in Lake Orion, Michigan. (AP)

Biden’s promise to create 1 million auto industry jobs: employment increases, but time runs short to meet goal

The Bureau of Labor Statistics defines automotive industry jobs in four categories. Each has grown under Biden.

  • Motor vehicles and parts manufacturing grew from almost 945,600 jobs when Biden was inaugurated to 1,064,100 in January 2024, the most recent month with available data.

  • Wholesale motor vehicles and parts grew from 342,900 to 383,900 jobs over the same period.

  • Retail motor vehicles and parts grew from about 1.9 million jobs to almost 2.1 million.

  • Automotive repair and maintenance grew from 904,900 jobs to a bit more than 1 million.

These four categories collectively added 424,700 jobs on Biden's watch. By this pace, more than 560,000 auto-sector jobs would be added in his presidential term’s remaining year. That works out to fewer than 1 million jobs over four years and omits some jobs beyond these categories, such as electric vehicle charging stations, which Biden cited in making the promise.

The BlueGreen Alliance, which backs pro-environment policies including electric vehicles, estimated that 188,000 new electric-vehicle-related jobs have been created from already-announced projects. Adding all 188,000 jobs to Biden's total wouldn't get him to 1 million, and time is running out to reach his ambitious campaign goal. 

So far, we’ll rate this promise In the Works.

A Border Patrol agent checks the line formed by migrants Dec. 21, 2022, before letting a group enter El Paso, Texas, from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. (AP)
Biden’s promise to create a pathway to citizenship for nearly 11 million people: bills proposed, progress stymied

On his first day in office, Biden proposed a bill to create a pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally. But the bill went nowhere.

In February, a bipartisan group of senators unveiled a new immigration bill intended to reduce illegal immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Although Biden said he would sign it into law if it reached his desk, it failed in the Senate with a 49-50 vote. The measure didn’t include a path to citizenship for people living in the U.S. illegally, but sought to raise the initial asylum screening standard.

The prospect of Biden signing a bill granting a pathway to citizenship seems unlikely in a Republican-controlled House. For now, we rate this promise Stalled.

People listen to the California reparations task force as they vote on recommendations, May 6, 2023, during a meeting at Lesser Hall in Mills College at Northeastern University in Oakland, California. (AP)

Biden’s promise to support the study of reparations for slavery: no action, no advance 

After winning the presidency, Biden said that "the African American community stood up again for me. You've always had my back, and I'll have yours."

Although Biden kept his campaign promise to reduce the rate of uninsured African Americans and has worked toward his promise to make historically Black colleges and universities more affordable, he’s made scant progress toward the study of reparations. He did not promise to pay reparations — only to support its study.

Biden could form a commission to study reparations or back a long-standing congressional proposal to study it. He could call for a study on reparations. We found no evidence that he took any such steps.

Since 1989, Democrats have introduced bills calling to study reparations for African Americans. These ideas gained more attention in 2020, after a white Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd, a Black man. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, reintroduced related legislation in January 2023, but it has not received a vote in the Republican-led House.

For now, we’ll rate this Promise Broken.

Biden’s promise to decriminalize the use of cannabis: recommendations made, Justice Department review awaited 

Biden's promise to decriminalize marijuana moved forward in 2023, but awaits the U.S. Justice Department's review. Federal law so far classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act; the classification is meant for the most dangerous substances, including heroin and LSD.

In August 2023, the federal Department of Health and Human Services recommended that the Drug Enforcement Administration reschedule cannabis from Schedule 1 to Schedule 3, which would put marijuana on par with some doses of codeine, ketamine, and anabolic steroids

In January, Health and Human Services, in a 252-page recommendation, acknowledged cannabis as having an accepted medical use and relatively low potential for abuse.

There is no mandated timeline for the federal government to act, and the Drug Enforcement Administration has historically taken years to do so, Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML, a group advocating for descheduling marijuana, told PolitiFact.

For now, this promise remains In the Works. 

President Joe Biden, center, flanked by U.S. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, left, and Col. Alexander Conyers, the HBCU's president, arrive Dec. 17, 2021, at commencement exercises for South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, South Carolina. (AP)
Biden’s promise to make minority-serving institutions more affordable: goal investment is far off

Biden vowed to invest $18 billion in four-year historically Black colleges and universities and other minority-serving institutions. Biden hasn’t reached that level of investment, but experts say his administration has taken many steps toward fulfilling this promise.

Biden’s administration has invested more than $7 billion in HBCUs, with $1.7 billion allocated for grants to support low-income students and make HBCUs more affordable. The largest sum, $2.7 billion, came from the 2021 American Rescue Plan, which Congress passed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Also in 2021, Biden invested $1.6 billion in Capital Financing Debt Relief to discharge HBCUs’ debt.

In 2023, the Education Department announced $93 million in new research and postsecondary grants for minority-serving colleges and universities.

Despite a significant increase in funding, the Biden administration's improvements totaled less than half of the promised amount. So far, we rate this pledge Compromise.

PolitiFact Senior Correspondents Louis Jacobson and Amy Sherman and Staff Writers Ian McKinney and Maria Ramirez Uribe contributed to this report.

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