Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker joined several colleagues in writing a letter to President Joe Biden imploring the president to extend college debt relief programs to the parents of college students.
Calling Biden’s previous efforts to address student debt “historic,” the legislators urged the Administration to include Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students (Parent PLUS) borrowers to be eligible for federal student loan programs.
Such programs could include the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) and Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) programs, with the Senators even calling for the implementation of executive actions to provide student debt relief.
“We write to urge you to consider Parent PLUS borrowers in any administrative changes and executive actions you undertake to improve the Department of Education’s student loan programs and provide student loan relief,” wrote the Senators to President Biden.
“Currently, there are over 3.6 million Parent PLUS borrowers owing more than $107 billion, accounting for about 10% of all student loan debt. Congress created the (…) program in the 1980 reauthorization of the Higher Education Act to meet demands for increased federal student lending and as a response to families who needed assistance covering their expected family contribution.”
In addition to Sens. Menendez and Booker, the letter was signed by Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Tina Smith (D-MN), and Brian Schatz (D-HI).
The Senators asked the Biden Administration to extend the $10,000 in student debt forgiveness to Parent PLUS borrowers whose children were Pell Grant recipients.
Additionally, the Senators requested that improvements to student loan forgiveness programs include borrowers enrolled in the Parent PLUS program, which receive less favorable terms than other types of federal student loan programs.
“Recent studies show that an increasing number of Parent PLUS borrowers are among the lowest income families receiving Pell Grants, have among the lowest estimated family contributions (EFCs), and are typically parents of students attending public institutions or Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Parent PLUS loan debt also impacts low-income Black and Latino families disproportionally,” added the Senators.
“By reducing barriers to this program for Parent PLUS borrowers and ensuring they are included in debt relief, we will move one step closer to remedying program-wide issues for these borrowers, narrowing the wealth gap, and addressing our country’s student loan debt crisis.”
Prior Support for Student Debt Relief
Menendez previously showed his support for student debt relief, although he wanted more to be done.
“For many who have long postponed buying their first home, opening a small business, or even starting a family because of their student debt, today’s announcement will make a profound difference and help unleash the economic potential of thousands of student borrowers in New Jersey and millions across the country,” he said after Biden announced the debt relief plan.
“While this is not the full cancellation amount I have advocated for, I do urge the Biden Administration to seize this opportunity to develop and implement a unified plan for improving federal student loan programs…by waiting to restart student loan payments until a unified plan is in place, the Administration would provide transformative economic relief with minimal disruptions to borrowers,” he continued