“It’s passed,” Biden said. “It passed by a vote or two.”
The program, which provides up to $20,000 in relief to tens of millions of student debt holders, was an action by the Executive Branch.
Biden announced the executive action in August with Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, a Biden appointee.
Biden, 79, was speaking during a forum hosted by NowThisNews.
Joshika Kumaran, a college junior, took the microphone and asked the president to fix what she described as a “broken education system,” pointing to how many graduates hold student debt and aren’t able to pay it off for years after graduating.
“What can your administration, working with Congress, do to help break this vicious cycle that is hurting the future of young people seeking an education for a better life?” she asked.
Biden said that the issue stems from tuition becoming more expensive and aid not rising to keep the costs in check.
“We have to do three things,” Biden said.
One, he said, was to point out that colleagues “in many cases, are raising tuition without any good reason to raise that, raise those tuitions.”
Another was to encourage state legislators to pass legislation that would bolster the amount of money students can receive in aid.
The third, he said, was to forgive debt.
That’s when he started talking about the new program, which was slated to start erasing loans this month but is currently paused on orders from a U.S. appeals court.
“I’ve just signed a law that’s being challenged by my Republican colleagues,” Biden started, adding after criticizing Republicans: “What we’ve provided for is, if you went to school, if you qualify for Pell Grant, you qualify for $20,000 in debt forgiveness. Secondly, if you don’t have one of those loans, you just get $10,000 written off. It’s passed, I got it passed by a vote or two, and it’s in effect.”
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
Kumaran then noted that the forgiveness scheme was actually implemented by the Executive Branch, while expressing concern that another administration could reverse the program and “re-saddle us with the same debt.”
“What does a sustainable solution look like? That can’t be reversed with a new administration,” she said.
Biden said he was confident he would be in office for another six years, referring to his possibly winning again in 2024.
He also floated making sure people have “free and reduced access to community college and early education at 3 years of age.”
“I pushed it. I haven’t gotten it passed yet,” he said. “So there’s a lot of things we can do to increase the prospects of being able to have a better-educated public, where you’re not indebted and have sort of a weight around your neck for a long, long time.”