Amid staggering nationwide learning loss, the Biden administration’s move to forgive billions in student loan debt could have been better spent towards other education initiatives to improve severe academic decline post-pandemic, a former U.S. Department of Education official told Fox News.
“If we did have $39 billion waiting around to be spent, there is a much better use of that, and it means getting students up to speed in the educational basics that will serve them for a lifetime,” Angela Morabito, spokesperson for the Defense of Freedom Institute, said. “It means making sure that every student in America can read, write, do math and understand science and history at a very high level.”
“That’s what American education can and should be,” she said. “It’s distressing that we’re not there.”
The Biden administration announced that $39 billion in student loan debt would be forgiven for 804,000 borrowers on Friday, touting the over $116 billion spent in loan relief to over 3 million borrowers since the president took office. Meanwhile, nationwide students have shown steep and ongoing academic decline, with many kids learning at a slower rate than before the pandemic, according to a report the research group NWEA released on July 10.
“The learning loss numbers that we’re seeing and the nations report card scores that have come out since COVID have laid bare the fact that American education is really in a state of emergency,” Morabito said. “So if $39 billion were to randomly fall out of the sky, I would say we devote every last cent of that to the educational basics and not on a regressive policy.”
Math scores for 13-year-olds this school year were the lowest since 1990, while reading scores dropped to a nearly 20-year low, according to a report the National Assessment of Educational Progress released in June.
“This $39 billion decision seemingly came out of nowhere until you realize that it is part of Biden’s larger plan to enact mass loan forgiveness any way he can, legal or not,” she continued. “Anything that makes more Americans cosigners on loans they didn’t take out I think is a real mistake. It’s the wrong thing to do.”
The Friday announcement came on the heels of the 6-3 Supreme Court decision in June that struck down Biden’s expected $400 billion student loan forgiveness plan, one of the president’s major campaign promises. The high court ruled the plan as unconstitutional, with Justice John Roberts citing then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi from 2021 in his argument that the president doesn’t have the power to cancel federal student loan debt.
“‘People think that the President of the United States has the power for debt forgiveness. He does not,’” Roberts quoted from Pelosi’s July 28, 2021, press conference. “‘He can postpone. He can delay. But he does not have that power. That has to be an act of Congress.’”
Morabito told Fox News Biden needs to consult with Congress for any decisions regarding federal student loan debt.
“It’s Congress that has the power of the purse,” Morabito said. “If President Biden wants to get this done, he ought to go ask Congress, but he doesn’t because he knows they will say no.”
“The Biden administration is saying, ‘well, too bad we don’t really care about your financial choices. You are now on the hook for billions of dollars,’” she continued.
The former DOE official also said simply throwing billions towards institutions doesn’t always solve the root issues. In March 2021, Congress provided over $122 billion for schools to address the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequential academic loss and mental health decline in students, but learning loss has only continued despite the increased funding.
“There are billions of COVID relief dollars for education that are sitting there unspent,” Morabito said. “I wouldn’t say that money is the answer to all of this. It’s really more choice for parents, and it is thoughtful education programing that will help address learning loss.”
The Biden administration forgiving $39 billion in student loan debt “is very much, I think, a political decision,” Morabito said. “It certainly doesn’t seem to have much legal basis. And I predict this is not the end of the road, that this will be challenged through the legal system.”
To hear more from a former DOE official on Biden’s student loan forgiveness, click here.