Lawmakers and advocates look for next steps on student debt problem

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WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – In just a few weeks, the Biden administration says borrowers will be able to apply for student loan forgiveness. With the cost of college still high, many lawmakers and advocates say there’s more to do on this issue.

Millions of people will soon see a drop in their student debt balance after President Joe Biden announced a plan to forgive up to $20,000 dollars for borrowers. It also caps regular loan payments at 5% of someone’s income and wipes out loans for some after 10 years of repayment.

Carmel Martin with the White House Domestic Policy Council says the application for forgiveness should be available sometime in October.

“The Department of Education is working around the clock to stand up the program,” Martin said.

Even with these steps, advocates are looking ahead. Melissa Byrne, with the group “We the 45M,” hopes this is just the beginning.

“Renew the fight for free college, renew the fight to get more debt canceled,” Byrne said.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona says he recognizes loan forgiveness alone isn’t enough.

“Everybody has some work to do to make sure that college is more affordable, including our colleagues in higher education,” Cardona said.

Many lawmakers agree that there’s more to do on this issue, and they have some ideas.

Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., introduced a bill that would double the size of Pell grants and lower interest rates for loans.

“The student loan crisis isn’t the fault of the students,” Scott said.

He believes his LOAN Act can build on the President’s actions.

“We should be making college accessible to everyone,” Scott said. “Everyone should have the opportunity to move up in society and a college education is the quickest route to do that.”

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., also has a pitch on college affordability. He introduced legislation that would make colleges pay half the balance of any student loan that’s fallen into default.

“The colleges ought to be the ones who are on the hook for the loans. That’s, I think, the way to really get at the issue here, which is that these colleges are getting rich by taking the money from students and giving them worthless degrees,” Hawley said.

Neither plan will move forward unless Democrats and Republicans find some common ground.

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