New graduates line up before the start of commencement ceremonies. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File) On The Money NerdWallet Solve Student-Debt
New graduates line up before the start of commencement ceremonies. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

US senators and representatives sign letter urging Biden to extend the pause on student loan payments until 2022.

Four Pennsylvania representatives are among a large group of Congress members urging President Joe Biden to extend the current pause on federal student loan payments and interest.

Sixty-four senators and representatives from across the US have signed a letter asking Biden to extend the pause for another six months or until the economy returns to pre-pandemic employment levels, whichever is later.

“The suspension of payments and interest during the pandemic has provided essential relief to borrowers and their families during this economic and public health crisis,” the letter says. “Restarting payments, however, will present a significant challenge for borrowers, loan servicers, and the Department of Education (ED), and we urge you not to let the payment pause lapse when borrowers are still depending on this financial relief.” 

Reps. Brendan Boyle (D-Philadelphia), Mike Doyle (D-Allegheny), Dwight Evans (D-Philadelphia), and Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Delaware) were among those who signed the letter. 

The Student Debt Crisis

Nearly 43 million Americans owe a combined estimated $1.6 trillion dollars in student loan debt. Approximately 1.7 million of them are Pennsylvanians, and they have an average student loan debt of $35,400 and account for $61.5 billion of the national student debt.

Prior to the pandemic, the average monthly student loan payment ranged from $354- $541 nationally. Healthcare workers paid the highest for any industry, averaging $685 per month on student loan payments.

Pennsylvanians have average monthly student loan payments of $216. 

Prior to the pandemic, an estimated 1 million borrowers across the country were defaulting on their student loans every year. Approximately 231,200 Pennsylvanians have unpaid student loan debt. With the current state of the economy, many borrowers are relying on pandemic relief to make ends meet.

Women and People of Color Disproportionately Affected

Women and people of color have been affected by the pandemic at higher rates. Some experts are calling it “the most unequal recession in modern U.S. history.” 

Women hold more than half of the country’s student loan debt. 

Black college graduates have a national average of $52,726 in student loan debt compared to $28,006 for the typical white bachelor’s graduate.

Current Student Loan Payment Relief

The CARES Act, the $2.4 trillion COVID relief package signed into law in March 2020, paused federal student loan payments through September 2020. Every member of Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation voted for the package.

In September, when the country was still in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, then-President Donald Trump extended the CARES Act until Jan. 31.

When Biden took office, he extended the bill further, through Sept. 30. 

The US Department of Education has provided approximately $72 billion dollars in student loan interest relief to date, money that has been pushed back into the economy.