The Biden administration is signaling they may extend the payment freeze.

By Jacqui Germain, Teen Vogue

This story is published as part of Teen Vogue’s 2022 Economic Security Project fellowship.

Well, here we are again trying to make sense of Joe Biden’s “will-he-or-won’t-he” strategy to address the country’s $1.6 trillion in federal student loan debt. Recent news suggests, though, that the pendulum might once again be swinging back toward the “will he” side of the spectrum.

Last week on the podcast Pod Save America, White House chief of staff Ron Klain shared an update that offered a glimmer of hope for debt cancellation advocates. “The president’s going to look at what we should do on student debt before the pause expires or he’ll extend the pause,” Klain said in the podcast’s video clip. “Joe Biden, right now, is the only president in history where no one’s paid on their student loans for the entirety of his presidency. And so the question of whether or not there’s some executive action student debt forgiveness when the payments resume is a decision we’re going to take before the payments resume.”

demonstrator with sign that says Biden cancel student debt now

This week, the White House offered another glimmer of hope. As reported by CNBC, the U.S. Department of Education directed several companies that are responsible for servicing federal student loans not to send out notices to borrowers about repayments starting up in May. Many of those with federal student loans might remember getting email notices last year from the Department of Education indicating the payment pause would be coming to a close.

For a White House that said it would extend the moratorium “one final time” to January 31, 2022 — and then extended it yet again to May 1 — both Klain’s comments and the possible directives from the White House suggest the administration is open to pushing the repayment date even further. With the November midterm elections moving closer, the political stakes are intensifying. Asking millions of people to start repaying their loans and then to go out and vote for the Democratic Party seems like a risky calculation.

But we still have nothing resembling a straight answer from the administration. Asked about Klain’s comments, White House press secretary Jen Psaki gave a lukewarm response, saying, “That is obviously something we will continue to assess and review as we get closer to May,” followed by, “I don’t have anything to predict at this point in time.” And a Department of Education spokesperson told The Hill that they would “continue communicating directly with borrowers about federal student loan repayment and providing clear and timely updates.”

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