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Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher May 28, 2021

Student debt forgiveness is not in Biden’s 2022 budget, but it’s still in play

If Your Time is short

  • Biden’s 2022 federal budget proposal does not include a provision for student debt forgiveness.

  • Biden is still considering options, including an executive order, for student debt forgiveness.

New college graduates had just moved their tassels from one side to the other when they were hit with a cold reality check about student loans. 

It came in this attack from the left on President Joe Biden:

"Biden just dropped student debt cancellation down to zero. That’s right, the Biden administration has decided to cancel $0 in student debt."

The claim was made May 24 in a tweet that was widely shared on Instagram, including in a post that was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

Biden did not include student debt forgiveness, one of his campaign promises, in his 2022 federal budget proposal. 

But he is still pursuing forgiveness options, including determining whether it would be legal to do so through an executive order and calling on Congress to act. The White House has asked Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to review the president’s legal authority to cancel up to $50,000 in student debt per borrower.

Biden promised to forgive student debt

The critical tweet came from the Gravel Institute, whose "mission is to build the institutions the left needs to win." It is named for Democrat Mike Gravel, the former Alaska senator and presidential candidate. The tweet was followed by another stating that Biden took student loan cancellation out of his budget because Congress won't pass it — an apparent reference to the difficulty of getting Republican support for such legislation in the Senate.

Hopes for relief are high because of the rise in student debt and Biden’s pledge to tackle it.

Featured Fact-check

Student loan debt exceeded $1.73 trillion in the first quarter of 2021, nearly double what it was 10 years earlier, according to the latest data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. The median amount of education debt in 2020 among those with any outstanding debt for their own education was between $20,000 and $24,999, according to a Federal Reserve Board survey.

During the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden promised "for debt-holders earning up to $125,000" to "forgive all undergraduate tuition-related federal student debt" from two- and four-year public colleges and universities; and from private historically Black colleges and universities and minority-serving institutions. He also pledged to take other steps to help student borrowers.

No move yet to erase student debt

Less than a month after Biden took office, a widely shared Facebook post claimed that Biden "really did wipe away" student loan debt. We rated it False. He extended a pause on federal student loan payments, but did not cancel debt.

Three days before the Gravel Institute’s tweet, the Washington Post reported that student loan debt forgiveness was expected to be left out of Biden’s 2022 federal budget proposal, according to four people who spoke on condition of anonymity. Biden’s budget was released May 28 and contained no mention of student loans.

But for student debt forgiveness, Biden is also pursuing a possible executive order and has expressed desire for Congress to take action. He has also drawn limits. New York Times columnist David Brooks recently interviewed Biden and described him as suspicious of generous college debt forgiveness plans suggested by the left. "The idea that you go to Penn and you’re paying a total of 70,000 bucks a year and the public should pay for that? I don’t agree," Biden said, referring to the University of Pennsylvania, a private Ivy League school.

Bankrate said the news of Biden’s budget plan led "experts to believe that cancellation may not happen anytime soon." White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in April: "The President continues to call on Congress to cancel $10,000 in debt for student loan borrowers. That’s something Congress could take an action on and he’d be happy to sign. We’re still taking a closer look at our options on student loans."

Our ruling

A widely shared social media post claimed: "The Biden administration has decided to cancel $0 in student debt."

Biden’s 2022 federal budget proposal does not include a provision for student debt forgiveness. But Biden is still considering options, including an executive order, for student debt forgiveness.

For a statement that contains only an element of truth, our rating is Mostly False.

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More by Tom Kertscher

Student debt forgiveness is not in Biden’s 2022 budget, but it’s still in play

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