The top Republican lawmakers on the House and Senate education committees are calling on Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to have monthly student loan payments resume on Oct. 1 when the federal forbearance currently in place is set to expire.
In a letter to Cardona Thursday, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), ranking member of the House Education and Labor committee, and Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee, asked Cardona to clarify whether the Department of Education (ED) plans to restart payments for tens of millions of borrowers this fall or issue another extension.
The letter comes as Democrats are pressing Cardona and President Joe Biden to provide borrowers relief with another pause on student loan payments and interest accrual, arguing that student loan servicers need more time to communicate with borrowers.
“We are worried borrowers are receiving mixed messages,” Foxx and Burr wrote in the letter to Cardona. “Our Democrat colleagues continue to call for another extension of the repayment freeze even though they know your own staff says that they are working to meet the October 1 deadline to return to repayment.”
The lawmakers added that ED staff previously indicated to them that ED “is preparing to transition the federal student loan portfolio back into repayment” at the currently scheduled date of Oct. 1, though they also noted that Cardona has yet to formally respond to an earlier letter from Foxx and Burr first calling on ED to detail its plan to to smoothly transition millions of borrowers back into repayment.
“Student loan borrowers deserve clarity,” Foxx and Burr wrote to Cardona in Thursday’s letter. “Are you going to restart payments on October 1 as your staff has indicated, or are you going to cave to progressive activists and ask the President to support another extension?”
The lawmakers asked Cardona for a written response to the question by the end of the week. A spokesperson for ED confirmed to NASFAA the department had received the letter but declined to comment further.
Pressure from both sides of the aisle in Congress sets the stage for a decision from Cardona and ED in the coming weeks as the clock is ticking and student loan servicers are expected to reach out to borrowers to communicate that payments are soon to be due.
Notably, the pressure campaign on the White House is not just coming from lawmakers. Politico reported earlier this month that top officials at ED are also urging Biden to extend the relief to borrowers one more time, through at least January 2022.
Neither Cardona nor the White House have issued a final decision on whether the payment pause will be extended.
Publication Date: 8/2/2021