Why So Much Student Loan Reform?

Student Loan Reform as a Reaction to Inaction

If you’ve been following the news around student loans throughout the pandemic, you’re probably aware of the dizzying pace of reforms that have been implemented—or at least attempted—by the Biden Administration. Some may wonder why this President has made student loan reform such a priority, even in just his first two years of office. One argument is that Secretary of Education Cardona is making up for lost time, reversing years of inaction and regressive policies by his immediate predecessor. Another is that President Biden inherited the largest student debt crisis in America’s history at the same time as he was picking up the pieces from a bungled response to the Covid-19 pandemic and a struggling economy.

How Did Student Loans Get Out of Control?

The current student loan reforms are a response to a decades-long crisis in the making. Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) and Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) were created under the George W. Bush Administration—alongside an expansion of the Pell Grant—as tools to help struggling families send their kids to college. Meanwhile, more than three-quarters of state governments made deep cuts to funding for higher education, leading colleges and universities to dramatically raise tuition prices. Now, prospective students have to borrow more than ever—as institutions continue to raise prices in response to the never-ending supply of federal student loan dollars—forcing Americans to perpetuate the vicious cycle of student debt as it soars higher and higher.

Student Loan Reform as Part of a Broader Solution

While progress has been made on student loan reform over the past two years, it’s not the only solution, nor the end of the story. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke powerfully of systems of wealth that perpetuate divisions in society; more than 50 years ago he cautioned us not to be distracted by gestures that give the illusion of progress without dismantling the structures that prevent it:

True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.
(“A Time to Break Silence,”, April 4, 1967)

Until the college affordability crisis is addressed, the student debt crisis will continue and the inequality of student borrowing will spiral further and further. Navigate remains committed to the work of advocating for borrowers and college affordability. We hope that you will join us in this work, and in striving for a future in which all can pursue their dreams without fearing the cost.

If you have Federal Student Loans, schedule your free 15-minute Discovery Session to find out if your loans can be forgiven after 25 years.