On August 24, President Joe Biden announced the administration’s Student Loan Debt Plan, which included debt forgiveness for select individuals, a payment plan based on income, and an extended pause on accumulating loan interest. This proposal can affect countless college students and graduates, especially those with annual incomes under $75,000.
The new initiatives target borrowers with federal loans for debt cancellation, introduce a new income-driven repayment plan, and pause federal student loan interest until December 31, 2022. The Biden-Harris Administration also reinforced their future intentions to reduce the cost of higher education by working to make community college free and doubling the maximum size of the Pell Grant.
“Getting an education should set us free; not strap us down! That’s why, since Day One, the Biden-Harris administration has worked to fix broken federal student aid programs and deliver unprecedented relief to borrowers,” says U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardone in the initial press release. “Today, we’re delivering targeted relief that will help ensure borrowers are not placed in a worse system financially because of the pandemic, and restore trust in a system that should be creating opportunity, not a debt trap.”
PRSSA members may stand to benefit from knowledge of this announcement. In weeks ahead, the Department of Education will share further details on how borrowers can claim this relief, and they report that it will be available “no later than when the pause on federal student loan repayments terminates at the end of the year.” Some borrowers may even automatically receive relief because their relevant income data is already available to the Department.
Press Material Timeline
The Biden Administration’s Student Loan Debt Forgiveness Plan was announced on August 24 through a press conference at 2:15pm ET, a press release from the Department of Education, and an infographic that was shared on the @POTUS social media accounts. Later, a fact sheet from the briefing room was released and more infographics were shared on White House affiliated accounts. The use of these different types of media allowed for their message to be more effectively shared, a goal all PR professionals strive to achieve.
As a hallmark of Biden’s campaign promises, this issue has become a highly politicized topic in the media. Many hold party-affiliated beliefs or personal experiences that affect their opinion on the topic. The proposal faced both heavy backlash and support in media coverage.
The @WhiteHouse social media accounts (managed by Megan Coyne, the social media manager known for making the @NJGov account go viral) attempted to call out hypocrisy in some media statements by showing that many political figures that were criticizing the proposal — and debt forgiveness specifically — had much larger PPP loans forgiven. PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) loans were small business loans for those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic for payroll use or to recuperate lost business costs. Although student loans and PPP loans have different purposes, both are voluntary loans taken out as a result of career-based need, and both involve the commitment to pay the money back.
Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, Congressman Matt Gaetz, and several other congresspeople were mentioned in this thread in response to critical statements or media appearances.
From the @GOP accounts, opposing statements were shared in the form of statistics and links to fitting media articles, such as in the tweet shown below.
Media responses to political issues, especially from such prominent accounts, have a meaningful effect on the beliefs of the American people and voters. There is no doubt of the impact that public relations and social media have on current society and public opinion.
As college students and involved media users, PRSSA members can use these resources to develop their own opinion, and if necessary, determine if they are eligible for next steps. The U.S. Department of Education offers a subscription to emails for Federal Student Loan Borrower Updates if you would like to stay updated on topics such as this one.
Melina O’Neal is a third-year Media & Culture student at West Chester University of Pennsylvania with a minor in Digital Marketing. With PRSSA, she serves as a District Ambassador, National Publications Committee member, and treasurer for her collegiate Chapter. She currently works as a public relations intern at an advertising agency and consults in digital marketing. You can connect with Melina via LinkedIn.