In the days and even weeks after President Joe Biden took the dramatic step to order the cancellation of student loan debt for up to 40 million Americans, it wasn’t clear that he’d ever focus publicly on the issue again.
Passing references deep into broad policy speeches were as much as Biden was willing to give the issue, a reflection of both the arduous and divided internal policy process – and caution inside the White House political team about the broader salience of the issue.
That will change in a major way Friday when Biden travels to Delaware State University for an event tied explicitly to his executive action, where he will talk up the debt relief program, provide an update on sign-ups and call out Republican lawmakers who have attacked the program. He’ll arrive with the wind of two court victories over the legality of the move, and the seamless launch of the program that has already seen more than 10 million borrowers apply.
But embedded in the decision to try and thrust the issue to center stage is what White House officials have seen in polling about its effect on youth voters and engagement – particularly young Black voters, several sources say. While officials expected some impact, the scale caught some by surprise and helped push the issue further to the front-burner inside the West Wing.
Delaware State, an HBCU with close ties to Biden over decades, will become the platform for the President’s latest push to highlight his policy decisions – and energize Democrats.
It’s also a good window into Biden’s event scheduled just a few hours prior to his visit to Delaware State. The primary attack on the loan actions has been its cost, which estimates have pegged at hundreds of billions of dollars over the course of 10 years.
That’s why Biden will use the Treasury Department’s annual budget results for the most recent fiscal year to tout numbers that will show a fairly dramatic topline decrease in the annual deficit. To be clear, it’s tied primarily to the end of the most significant pandemic-era emergency programs. But the dry numbers release creates a perfect moment for Biden to pre-but the attacks coming later in the day.
Biden’s remarks come a day after federal courts stymied two attempts to block the program. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett rejected a challenge to the program by a Wisconsin taxpayers’ group and federal district court Judge Henry Autrey dismissed a lawsuit brought forward by six Republican-led states.
A White House official said ahead of the speech that Biden will provide an update on the program’s launch and highlight the expanded relief directed to Pell grant recipients, who account for 75% of students at Delaware State University, a Historically Black College & University.
“The President will highlight the life-changing impact student debt relief will have on millions of working and middle-class Americans, particularly borrowers of color. He will also call out Republican members of Congress attacking his efforts to give middle-class families some additional breathing room even as these very officials had hundreds of thousands of dollars of their own pandemic relief loans forgiven by the federal government,” the official said.
Applications for the program formally opened on Monday, with 8 million Americans already beginning the process of signing up during the beta launch.
Biden will also highlight his administration’s work to strengthen historically Black colleges and universities and “the steps the Biden-Harris Administration is taking to fix the student loan system itself and make education more affordable,” the White House official said.
Biden will be introduced by a Delaware State University student who will share how the relief will impact him and his family.
This is a breaking story and will be updated.