WASHINGTON (KFOR) – More lawmakers have reacted to President Joe Biden’s announcement for the student loan forgiveness plan. The plan will wipe away $10,000 in federal student loan debt for those making less than $125,000 a year. It also will cancel out an additional $10,000 for students who received federal Pell grants.
The announcement has lawmakers on both sides questioning the plan. Some Oklahoma lawmakers called the loan forgiveness “unfair.”
KFOR took its own independent Twitter poll, asking if Oklahomans agreed with the President’s decision. More than 200 people voted, with 45 percent said the help was needed while 30 percent voted it was unfair.
News of the student loan forgiveness program spread across college campuses Wednesday, including Oklahoma City University. Dr. Richard Johnson has been a political science professor at OCU for 26 years.
“If you walked into a governance class and asked them about their top three concerns, I’m willing to bet either first or second thing would be student loan debt,” said Johnson.
Johnson studies politics and said the plan was tentative, but many lawmakers have raised concerns about timing.
“It’s a little conveniently close to the election,” said Johnson. “President Biden, as a candidate, did run on student loan forgiveness I think the fact that he’s getting criticism from both the right and the left may say this may be middle ground to go for because there are people saying it’s not enough.”
Some Oklahoma lawmakers in Washington said the plan shouldn’t happen at all, even though many have taken advantage of loan forgiveness themselves through the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP. The program was a federal loan given to keep workers employed during the pandemic.
KFOR emailed six different lawmakers asking to address the difference between loan forgiveness for student debt versus loan forgiveness during the pandemic.
Rep. Markwayne Mullin received more than $980,000 for his plumbing companies, as well as large sums for his other companies, over $1.4 million combined. Rep. Kevin Hern received more than $1 million for his McDonald’s franchises. The loans were forgiven for both.
Both Mullin and Hern took to Twitter to blast Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan. The White House retorted to both, pointing out Mullin received over $1.4 million in PPP loan forgiveness, and Hern received $1 million in PPP loan forgiveness.
KFOR received a phone call from Hern’s office that said they would not issue a statement because we were comparing “apples to oranges.”
Sen. James Lankford issued a statement that read, “you can’t just ‘cancel’ student loan debt – someone still has to pay for it. American families who worked two jobs in college now have to also pay the debt of others as well.”
Congressman Tom Cole sent KFOR this statement:
“The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans were eligible to be forgiven if recipients used the funds on statutorily-specified items meant to keep afloat businesses that were forcibly shut down and essentially unable to operate, by no choice of their own, for weeks or months due to federally recommended lockdowns. By contrast, students loans are taken out by individuals willingly and of their own volition, and all repayment obligations and interest calculations are stated and agreed to upfront. Moreover, student loans are made with the intention of those loans being paid back outside of narrow and congressionally-authorized loan forgiveness programs like the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program or National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program. Frankly, comparing student loan forgiveness to PPP is an ‘apples to oranges’ comparison. The two programs are neither comparable in their nature or impact.”Rep. Tom Cole
Three of the lawmakers KFOR reached out to have not yet responded.