Biden’s student loan plan under discussion in live updates of officials’ meeting

Officials from the Department of Education will dedicate the entirety of Thursday and Friday to engaging with borrowers and experts to discuss the specifics of the Biden administration’s latest proposal for student loan forgiveness.

President Joe Biden’s recent initiative, which is hailed as a victory by progressives, aims to alleviate the financial strain faced by numerous Americans burdened by their student loan debts.

The feasibility of the plan navigating governmental bureaucracy and potential legal challenges remains uncertain.

Biden’s objective is to provide relief to borrowers enduring significant financial “hardship,” with eligibility criteria potentially hinging on various factors such as household income, age, and existing debt obligations.

Following a setback last summer when the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the White House’s initial mass student loan forgiveness plan, the administration shifted its focus to an alternate strategy under the Higher Education Act.

The new approach entails a more complex bureaucratic process called negotiated rulemaking, involving collaboration between stakeholders and Education Department officials to formulate regulations. This iterative process can be arduous.

The ongoing discussions are crucial as they represent the final opportunity before the regulations must be finalized by November, with any new rules taking effect by July 2025.

Prior rounds of negotiations resulted in proposals to forgive loans exceeding the initially borrowed amounts for certain individuals. Additionally, older borrowers who commenced repayments at least twenty years ago were considered for forgiveness.

Despite some progress, advocates for individuals with debt, along with congressional Democrats participating in the negotiations, expressed dissatisfaction, leading to an extension of talks by the Biden administration.

Progressive stakeholders commended the Biden administration for recognizing the challenges posed by America’s student loan crisis, wherein factors like age or disability can impede loan repayments.

“We’re thrilled to get this language at all,” said Jessica Ranucci, a negotiator representing the New York Legal Assistance Group.

However, concerns have been raised regarding the Biden administration’s recent four-page proposal being overly ambiguous, possibly due to apprehensions about legal challenges.

In anticipation of potential legal scrutiny, the Education Department may opt for a less specific approach to mitigate conservative groups’ objections, according to Ed Boltz, an alternate negotiator.

“To the degree that it’s vague, I think that’s probably not a bad thing,” Boltz remarked before the talks.

The New Civil Liberties Alliance, which has contested Biden’s prior student loan proposals, cast doubt on the viability of the Education Department’s latest plan, citing potential legal barriers.

Despite legal uncertainties, negotiators like Jalil Bishop stress the importance of providing assistance to borrowers in need without being hindered by litigation fears.

“We also can’t negotiate against ourselves,” Bishop emphasized.

Stay tuned for live updates from USA TODAY on the ongoing negotiations.

Neg reg talks:Biden’s new student loan forgiveness plan is underway. 5 key takeaways from the first day

What is Biden proposing? 

The recent panel meetings left many members frustrated as federal officials appeared hesitant to adopt a broader approach to student debt relief, despite recommendations from researchers. The administration’s latest plan outlines 17 criteria for the education secretary to consider when canceling loans, including existing debt levels, past receipt of federal aid, and educational institution attended.

Federal authorities have emphasized their commitment to alleviating student loan debt by extending negotiations in recent weeks.

“The Biden-Harris Administration will never stop working to deliver student debt relief for borrowers,” affirmed James Kvaal, the education undersecretary.

How to watch and comment: Debates over latest student loan relief proposal 

The format of neg reg sessions has evolved from in-person to virtual due to the pandemic, enabling wider public access to the discussions. Sessions on Thursday and Friday will run from 10 a.m. ET to 4 p.m., with a public comment period in the latter part of the Thursday session.

To observe the proceedings, register here. For further details, refer to the tentative agenda here.

The Thursday session will allow public comments; request participation by contacting negreghearing@ed.gov by noon E.T. Thursday.

Who are the stakeholders who will be debating the new student loan forgiveness plan?

Negotiators span a diverse group including borrowers, consumer advocates, civil rights groups, state officials, attorneys general, college representatives, and student loan experts.

Refer to the list of primary negotiators and their alternates here.