The analysis found that 13 Democratic members of Congress who have affirmed some type of federal student loan cancellation policy reported a total of $1.5 million in loans. House members earn an annual salary of $174,000.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) owes up to $50,000, according to the financial disclosures, and said at the end of last year that she owes $17,000. “I’m 32 years old now,” the lawmaker remarked. “I have over $17,000 in student loan debt, and I didn’t go to graduate school because I knew that getting another degree would drown me in debt that I would never be able to surpass. This is unacceptable.”
Meanwhile, according to the disclosures, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) owes up to $100,000 and said last year that she owes $70,000. “I worked full time, Monday through Friday, and took weekend classes to get my law degree,” she said last year. “And still, close to $200,000 in debt. And I still owe over $70,000 and most of it was interest.”
The spouse of Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) owes up to $250,000, according to disclosures from last year. The lawmaker praised President Joe Biden in April for “extending the student loan moratorium” first established by President Donald Trump in early 2020, yet affirmed that the nation must cancel student debt altogether “in order for our country to thrive.”
A similar analysis from Business Insider released earlier this year found that 44 members of Congress listed student debt on their financial disclosures — reflecting 8% of the combined 535 members of the Senate and House of Representatives. Just over half of the legislators had reported their own student loans, while the rest had reported a spouse’s debt or an obligation co-signed on behalf of a child.
Democratic officials have been debating over the past several months about the possibility of issuing widespread student debt cancellation. The Biden administration is reportedly considering a plan to cancel $10,000 in loans per borrower after making a similar promise on the campaign trail, while Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has argued that “all President Biden has to do is flick his pen” and erase up to $50,000 per borrower.
Two weeks ago, Schumer also denounced the notion that student loans are “not a problem that concerns the wealthy or the Ivy League,” arguing that “all of these fat cats, and people who never want to see help for working people and poor people come up with these myths” — even though almost one-third of student debt is owed by the wealthiest 20% of households and 8% is owned by the bottom 20%, according to the Brookings Institution.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) rejected the idea that Biden can single-handedly cancel student debt — or that student debt cancellation is prudent in the first place. “Suppose,” she said, “your child at this time does not want to go to college, but you’re paying taxes to forgive someone else’s obligation. You may not be happy about that.”
The Biden administration has eliminated roughly $26 billion in student loans — especially for students who attended for-profit colleges that have shut their doors.