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U.S. Sen. Manchin questions U.S. Secretary of Education on SMARTER Debt Act, fiscal impact of student loan cancellation programs

West Virginia Press Association

WASHINGTON, DC – On April 30, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, questioned Miguel Cardona, U.S. Secretary of Education, on the importance of the Streamlining More Accessible, Reliable and Transparent Educational Resources for Debt Act (SMARTER Debt Act) and the impact of the Administration’s student loan cancellation programs on the national debt.

On the importance of the SMARTER Debt Act:

“We have a bill called the SMARTER Debt Act. When people call my office, we give them the fifty different variations of how they can reduce their debt by working it off,” Senator Manchin said in part. “Do you know how long it took us to find all fifty programs? Whether it be in health professions, public service, scientific research, there are so many options…Take a look at our SMARTER Debt Act. We’ve put it all together for you and you could put it on your website tomorrow to start showing people how to take the burden of high student loan debt off their back by giving services back to our government.”

Senators Manchin and Mike Braun (R-IN) introduced the SMARTER Debt Act in December 2023. The bipartisan legislation would establish an interactive, online dashboard at the U.S. Department of Education to improve public access to information about existing student loan forgiveness and repayment programs that aim to attract borrowers to public service and highly needed professions. A list of these Congressionally authorized student loan forgiveness programs is available here.

On the impact of the Administration’s student loan cancellation programs on the national debt:

“The debt is $34.5 trillion and growing every day,” Senator Manchin continued. “And yet, we ended up giving $620 billion away in debt cancellation, including $275 billion from President Biden’s new income driven repayment plan. And now we’re talking about doing another $750 billion? We’re spending more on giving money away than we ever have on education. It makes no sense to me at all…In my state, there’s an awful lot of kids who can’t go to college. They work hard and pay their taxes and then we give money away to people who went to college and had a good time – rural America has been left behind and continues to get screwed.”

A report on the total cost of recent student debt cancellation policies is available here.

A video of Senator Manchin’s questioning is available here.

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