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Top Congressional Democrats Call on Biden Administration to Hold Fourth Neg Reg Session

By Maria Carrasco, NASFAA Staff Reporter

Almost 40 congressional Democrats, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), are urging the Department of Education (ED) to host another negotiated rulemaking session – known as neg reg – to discuss student loan debt relief for borrowers who face financial hardship.

Back in December, ED held its final negotiated rulemaking session on student loan debt relief, where the committee did not reach consensus on several proposals. During the session, negotiators pressed ED to have another session to further discuss the issue of hardship, since ED did not provide any regulatory text on the issue. However, ED would not commit to hosting another session and said it needed to discuss next steps. 

In a letter sent by congressional Democrats, along with Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the lawmakers stressed that negotiators did not have enough time to discuss the issue of hardship, and that the department should schedule another session. 

“While we appreciate the efforts of the Department and the negotiating committee, we are concerned that, without full consideration of cancellation targeted toward borrowers facing financial hardship, the rule will not provide adequate debt relief for the most vulnerable borrowers,” the lawmakers wrote. “We urge ED to hold a fourth session to consider student debt relief for borrowers experiencing financial ‘hardship that is not otherwise addressed by the existing student loan system’ and deliver cancellation as soon as possible.”

The lawmakers noted that beyond issues with timing, ED did not release draft regulatory text on how it would provide relief for borrowers experiencing financial hardship, and stressed that with the added session, negotiators need proposed regulatory text to vote on. 

“The Department should announce a fourth session of the neg-reg to allow the appropriate time for negotiators to discuss and vote upon a relief proposal for borrowers experiencing financial hardship,” the lawmakers wrote. 

The lawmakers also listed possible ways the department could give relief to borrowers experiencing financial hardship, such as measuring hardship through factors such as a debt-to-income ratio and a student debt-to-income ratio. ED could also provide relief to borrowers who have filed bankruptcy, did not complete their degree, have Parent PLUS loans while also paying off their own loans, and other financial hardships. The lawmakers added that the regulatory text should provide ED’s secretary the flexibility to waive debt based on other unanticipated forms of financial hardship.

If the Biden administration is “provid[ing] student debt relief to as many borrowers as possible as quickly as possible,” the lawmakers stressed it is imperative for the department to provide relief for borrowers experiencing financial hardship.

“The Biden Administration must continue to use its authority to deliver on the promises made to student loan borrowers and hold a fourth negotiated rulemaking session, as quickly as possible, to complete discussion of hardship-based relief—and once complete, swiftly propose and implement debt relief for millions of hard-working Americans,” the lawmakers wrote.

 

Publication Date: 1/29/2024


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