Update: An earlier version of this story said King favored complete loan forgiveness.
Former Education Secretary John King called on the Biden administration Tuesday to cancel student loan debt for all borrowers.
King, who served under President Obama, told CBS News his view stems from a reduction in federal investment in higher education over the last four decades, noting in the 1980s federal Pell Grants covered up to 80 percent of college tuition.
“We’ve got to make up for that policy mistake of the last 40 years by addressing the crushing burden of student debt that so many young people feel today and fixing the problem going forward by committing to debt-free college in the United States,” King told the outlet.
An estimated 43 million Americans collectively owe at least $1.6 trillion, with the average borrower holding around $36,000 in federal student loans.
Federal loan payments are currently paused due to the coronavirus pandemic, but they are set to resume May 1. Lawmakers and advocates have called on the president to both extend the payment moratorium and forgive up to $50,000 per borrower.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) urged the president earlier this week to go even further and eliminate all student debt, noting another pause will insufficiently address the issue.
“Extending the payment pause just isn’t enough,” Jayapal wrote on Twitter. “We need to cancel every last penny of student debt, once and for all.”
The president signaled on the campaign trail and early in his presidency that he is willing to cancel up to $10,000 per borrower, and the administration has eliminated billions in loans already through borrower defense claims and policy overhauls.
But King said given the burdens caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the moves made toward loan forgiveness are not enough.
“We need more help from the federal government, and this is a way that we can really accelerate our economic recovery if President Biden would come forward now and cancel debt for all borrowers,” King said.
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