Remarks on the Federal Student Loan Debt Relief Program in Dover, Delaware
The President. Hey, everybody. It's good to be home. Please, if you have a seat, please take it. [Laughter]
Folks, as my mother would say, "Excuse my back." It's impolite to be talking when I have my back to you. But I apologize. I can't do them both. [Laughter]
Zach, you and I got through school the same way. I was an RA, a resident adviser. And it helped me get through law school. And I'm glad you were able to benefit from what we're doing. And I want to thank you for that introduction.
You're an example of why I'm so optimistic—all of you are—so optimistic about the future. You are the most involved, you are the most educated, you are the most engaged, you are the least prejudiced generation in American history.
So, for who everybody who says why am I so optimistic—not a joke—I'm optimistic because of all of you. I really mean it. So thank you for what you're doing. And please, get involved. No matter what position you take, get involved. We need you badly.
And I didn't even see all of—I didn't see the bleachers up there. Hey, everybody. [Laughter]
Audience member. We love you!
The President. Don't jump. Don't jump. [Laughter]
Audience member. We love you, Mr. President!
The President. By the way, as Tom Carper can tell you, I sort of got my political start at Del State. This is a place we organized for Kent and Sussex County. This is how we got going. That was back in 1871, I think. But—[laughter]—a long time ago.
Look, but before I begin, there's a lot of people that I—might be wondering why I'm here at Del State. It's because you're an HBCU and you play an important role in creating opportunity and possibilities all across the country.
We're here at Del State because it holds such a special place in my heart. There is no better example of a university that has changed so many lives, as Zach just explained about his. Like I've said many times, Delaware State "brung me to the dance," as they say up in Claymont. And I can't tell you how much I appreciate it.
I understand you've got a big game tomorrow: Howard University. Well, I tell you what, man, in case you haven't noticed, my VP is a Howard graduate. And she is a very vociferous Howard graduate.
And I'm always bragging—as Tony—as your president can tell you, I'm always bragging about Del State, and we've got a little thing going. And besides that, we have a lot more folks—you know, the Divine Nine kind of runs my operation. Oh, you all think I'm kidding? [Laughter] You think I'm kidding. [Laughter] I'm not kidding.
But I tell you what, to guarantee you win, we tried—I tried to figure out how we could do this, how to get Mike Purzycki to play for you. [Laughter] Mike Purzycki scored more receptions than—I think than any receiver in Delaware—University of Delaware history. And hell of a good mayor, but he was even a better ballplayer. [Laughter]
But, folks, look, what you've got to do—I want you to win, but take it a little easy, okay? Because I've got to go back to Washington. [Laughter] And you know, my Vice President is an extraordinary partner. I didn't go to Del State, but my heart is with you man, so don't let me down. Win one for Coach Bo. Win one for Coach Bo.
It's great to be here with friends. Delaware has great leadership and one of the most effective congressional delegations in America, and that's not hyperbole. One of the things I love about this team is we have each other's back.
Governor John Carney—he used to actually work with me—work for me. And look, he's now the Governor. He's more important than anybody, including me, because he has a wife who is an incredible writer.
At any rate—and Tommy Carper, one of my best friends for all politics. We've been—doing this a long time, Tommy. And Chris Coons, who has the seat I used to hold. Only difference is that he not only has a law degree, he has a divinity degree. The boy can preach. [Laughter]
But he can't preach as well as the next woman, Lisa Blunt Rochester. [Laughter] You all think I'm kidding. I'm not. You ever hear her? Whoa. Whoa, whoa, whoa.
They have my back, and they—I have theirs. And we have a great attorney general in Kathy Jennings, who worked with my son Beau. And Lieutenant Governor Bethany Hall is here as well. And the mayor, Robin Christiansen. Thanks for welcoming us to Dover, Mr. Mayor.
And as I said, you know, Purzycki knows a lot about being mayor, but he's even a better receiver. Mr. Mayor, thank you for what you're doing for the city of Wilmington. You're making a big difference, pal. You really are making a big difference.
You know, we've got another mayor here today. She's no longer the mayor; she happens to be the head of the—Director of the Office of Public Engagement, Keisha Lance Bottoms, the mayor of Atlanta. Madam Mayor, where are you? There she is.
Two things I learned you got to know about Keisha. One, she's smarter than you. And two, she's smarter than me politically as well. That's why I hired her. It's great to have you. And welcome to Del State I've been bragging about. You know, the fact of the matter is that she's also the mayor of Atlanta, but she's a FAMU grad.
And, Tony, you know where the real power is, as I said, in the Divine Nine. And speaking of the president of this great university, this guy used to work for me. Tony worked for me when I was a Senator. But then he left because he wanted to become a doctor, a Ph.D. in public policy. But that wasn't good enough. Then he decided he wanted to be president, and I got scared as hell he was going to run. [Laughter] But it turned out, he wanted to be president of a university.
By the way, Tony, I don't know if you told me—I told you, a true story: When I left the Vice Presidency after my—after Beau died, I wasn't going to get involved in politics anymore, so I became a full professor at the University of Pennsylvania. But before that occurred, three universities came to me and said they wanted to interview me to consider my being a president of the university.
And my wife, who's a professor at a community college—she has two masters and a Ph.D., and she's smarter than me—and she looked me, and she said, "If you do that, I'm leaving you." [Laughter] She said it's one of the toughest jobs in America, especially if you start arguing about parking spaces and office windows. [Laughter]
But, Tony, thanks, buddy. You're a good friend, and I can't say enough good things about you. And a year ago, I signed an Executive order establishing a Presidential initiative to strengthen HBCUs all across America. And I appointed Tony to lead that initiative because he's the best.
Tony, Keisha, Kamala, and I understand the critical role HBCUs provide for all folks in this country, particularly in building a middle class, basically a ticket to the middle class. HBCUs are a great value for all Americans. That's why, during the pandemic, my administration did something that's never been done before. We invested $5.8 billion in HBCUs. Some suggested we couldn't get it done, but we got it done. And that money already is out the door being used very well.
Tony and his team used a lot of that money, combined with the money from the university raised, to help students at Del State with their debt, reducing the debt burden for 225 graduating seniors. That's 225 Delaware State University graduates who can start getting on with their lives without the burden of student debt holding them back.
And that's what I want to talk about today. Eight weeks ago, I announced that my administration is going to provide $10,000 in debt relief to everyone and then—who has that much debt, or up to that much debt—and 20 grand if you received a Pell grant and your income was under $125,000. It's a plan for people who took out Federal student loans before July of this year.
And a few days ago, I launched an online application process where you can apply for that debt relief. So, folks, one of the things I wanted to make sure is, we didn't end up where we were in a position that Barack and I were in, in terms of the Affordable Care Act. It was—made it a little bit more difficult, but we made sure we tested it. We tested it for a weekend to see how it worked, John. And guess what? It worked. Almost 9 million people signed on.
Folks, if you have student debt—you've got a time limit now—if you have student debt, you can go to studentaid.gov—studentaid.gov. Fill out—it's very easy. Fill out your name, your Social Security number, your date of birth and contact information. No forms to upload. No special login to remember. Available in English and Spanish, desktop and mobile. And, folks, it takes less than 5 minutes. If you need additional information, we'll follow up with you.
This is a game changer. We're hearing from people all over the country. I have—over 10,000 students have written me letters so far. Literally, 10,000 so far. And it's about as easy to apply as signing up while hanging out with your friends or at home and watching a movie. The vast majority are applying on their phones, and it's easy—it's just simply—it's easy.
Now, in less than a week, just close to 22 million people have already given us the information to consider this life-changing relief.
My commitment when I ran for President of the United States: that if I was elected, I'd make the Government work and deliver for the people. A simple application process keeps that commitment, just as I'm keeping my commitment to relieve student debt as borrowers recover from the economic crisis caused by the once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.
And the way I think about it and the way my dad used to talk about this, the way so many at home talk about it around a kitchen table: How much are the monthly bills, and how do you have to pay for those necessities? How much do you have? Is there enough just for a little breathing room, as my dad would say, left over after the end of the month?
Our student loan plan lowers costs for Americans as they recover from the pandemic to give everybody a little more breathing room. I want to be clear who's going to benefit most: working people, middle class folks that earn under 125 grand—you get up to $10,000 knocked off the debt. And if you earn under 125 grand and you receive a Pell grant, you get a—20,000 bucks knocked off.
And in total, more than 40 million Americans stand to benefit from this relief. For borrowers out of school, nearly 90 percent—nearly 90 percent—of the relief are going to go to people making under $75,000 a year. Let me be clear: Not a dime—not a dime—will go to the top 5 percent of incomes, period. It goes to people who really need it.
And across America—[applause]. Across America, nearly every Pell grant recipient comes from a family making under $60,000. Two-thirds come from families making under $30,000 a year. Here at Del State, over 75 percent of the students are Pell grant recipients. That matters for millions of working and middle class people.
Now let's talk about who is against helping the millions of you who need the help and who want make sure you have a shot. Republican Members of Congress and Republican Governors are doing everything they can to deny this relief even in their—to their own constituents.
As soon as I announced my administration's plan on student debt, they started attacking it, saying all kinds of things. Their outrage is wrong, and it's hypocritical. But they're—but you know, we're not letting them get away with it.
They're—you know, they've been fighting us in the courts. But just yesterday a State court and the Supreme Court said, "No, we're on Biden's side."
I will never apologize for helping working and middle class Americans as they recover from the pandemic, especially not to the same Republicans officials who voted for a $2 trillion tax cut that mainly benefited the wealthy Americans and the biggest corporations that wasn't paid for and racked up our deficit.
I don't want to hear it from MAGA Republicans—officials who had hundreds of thousands of dollars of debts, even millions of dollars in pandemic relief loans forgiven, who now are attacking—attack me for helping working class and middle class Americans. My team at the White House posted a video of those folks online. You should check it out.
Marjorie Taylor Greene: She got over—she and her husband had $180,000 in business loans forgiven from the PPP program. She said it's "completely unfair" for us to forgive student loans for working and middle class Americans. Representative Vern Buchanan of Florida said our plan is "reckless." Guess how much he got in that program forgiven? Two million three hundred thousand dollars. This is not a joke.
You can't make this stuff up. Republican Governors wrote me earlier—wrote me a letter saying this relief is—only helps the "elite few." You all know you're the "elite few"? [Laughter] I knew you were really special, but I didn't know you were the "elite few." [Laughter] I'm serious.
Ted Cruz, the great Senator from Texas——
Audience members. Boo!
The President. ——he said it's for "slackers"—quote, "slackers" who don't deserve relief.
Who in the hell do they think they are? I mean it.
But despite what Republican officials say, we can afford student relief. That's because the first 2 years of my administration—that's because of the historic deficit reduction, the very deficit reduction the Republicans voted against.
This morning my administration announced that this year the deficit fell—the Federal deficit fell by one trillion four hundred billion dollars just this year. The largest 1-year drop in all of American history: one trillion four hundred billion. And it follows last year's historic drop on the deficit of $350 billion.
And we're going to reduce the deficit by another $250 billion over the next decade. And the reason for that is because of what—Medicare is going to be able to negotiate drug prices and lower the costs.
We pay the highest drug prices of any nation in the world for the same drug. You can buy the same exact drug in a drugstore here in Dover or Wilmington, and if you go over to Paris, France, or anywhere in Europe, it can be as much as 40-percent to 60-percent less. Same exact drug. So, folks, I don't want to hear any weeping and gnashing of teeth from Pharma—the big companies.
Folks, in just 20 months since I've been in office, we cut the deficit in half.
And that's not all. In relieving student debt, we're also resuming student loan repayments that you're going to have to start to pay because we had a—they had this long period no one had to pay because of the pandemic. So, come January, folks whose debt isn't fully canceled, you're going to have to start paying the student loans off. That means billions of dollars a year are going to start coming back into the Treasury as well.
My administration's plan is economically responsible—the economically responsible course to ensure a smooth transition to repayment and prevent unnecessary defaults.
And it's also focused on going after fraudsters who call borrowers to pretend they're the Government and want to help you with your loans. If you get a call, hang up. [Laughter] Not a joke. Let's be clear. No—pay no attention to them, because you never have to pay for help with your Federal student loans. Don't listen to anyone who calls.
I told you, just go online, and it's four questions. And if you get any questions, please report to the following website: reportfraud.FTC.gov. Report fraud.
My message to the fraudsters looking to cheat the American people is: Don't do it, man, because we're going to hold you accountable. We're going to come for you.
My administration is also taking additional steps to make education a ticket to the middle class that folks can actually afford. For example, we're fixing what used to be called the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. This program forgives student loans to encourage those students to go into public service: public school teachers, local police officers, workers at local charities, members of the military and the National Guard.
So if you serve in one of these jobs and you make your loan payments for 10 years, even if it's not consecutive years, the remainder of your balance will be completely forgiven—the remainder completely forgiven. The changes we've made expire, though, on October 31. So, folks, move. Move quickly.
So my message to all public servants out there with student debt is: Apply today. Go to PSLF.gov—PSLF.gov—to get that loan forgiven.
And let me close with this message to the young people of this Nation.
I've always believed your generation, as I said, represents the best educated, most talented, least prejudiced generation in our history and that today we face an inflection point, one of those moments that only come every several generations, where there is so much change happening technologically, politically, socially, environmentally that the decisions we make now are going to determine the future of our Nation and the future of your generation for the next 30 years.
More change is going to occur in the next 10 years than the last 40 years that we've been around. Not a joke. And guess what? I know that you feel like it's an added burden on top of all you've already been through. I'm not saying you have to shoulder the burden on your own. The task at hand and the task ahead is the work of all of us.
What I am saying is, you represent the best of us. A generation—your generation will not be ignored. You'll not be shunned. You'll not be silenced. Just look at what happens when you speak out. Two years ago, perhaps many of you voted in your first election or volunteered in your first election.
You understood the choice and the stakes. And because you exercised your right to vote, you elected me President and Kamala Vice President, the highest ranking woman ever to be elected in American history.
And since then—[applause]. And since then, with your help, we've delivered enormous progress for the Nation. More people voted in that last election than any time in American history. The most significant gun safety law we passed in 30 years. And by the way, I'm coming back and I'm going to eliminate assault weapons again. No, I promise. I did it once.
The most significant infrastructure law in American history, employing tens of thousands of people with good-paying jobs and modernizing our Nation in a way it hadn't happened since the—Eisenhower's highway bill.
The first Black woman on the Supreme Court, and she is smart as hell. I made that promise. No, by the way, watch her. Just watch her. Whoa.
I've appointed more Black women to the appellate courts of the United States than every other President combined in American history. The most significant commitment we've ever made to climate change. It's the ultimate threat to your generation. The ultimate threat. Well, guess what? We have over—close to a half a trillion dollars to deal with climate change.
And I'm keeping my promise that no one—no one—should be in jail for merely using or possessing marijuana. None. None. And the records, which hold up people from being able to get jobs and the like, should be totally expunged. Totally expunged. You can't sell it. But if it's just use, you're completely free.
And we know there's more work to be done on voting rights, on restoring a woman's right to choose. And today—[applause]. And today—look, my hope is, with the help of our delegation, if we maintain the Senate and pick up a couple Senators, we're going to see to it—we're going to see to it—that we completely codify Roe v. Wade in every State. Codify it. A national codification.
And today, we're following through on a promise I gave to millions of Americans with student loans: just a little more breathing room. Together, we're making our democracy deliver for the American people, and it strengthens all America. When those who are struggling economic—those with backgrounds like a lot of us—when we do well, the whole country does well. The wealthy do well. Everyone does well.
I am so sick and tired of trickle-down economics. I've had it up to here. Guess what? When poor folks and middle class folks make it, the wealthy do very, very well. They're not at all hurt. It's about time. I really mean it. I'm so sick and tired of telling me, you know: "Trickle-down. Give the wealthy more tax breaks and everything is going to be fine." Yes, right. [Laughter]
Well, look, folks, let me just say this: God bless you all for all you're doing. I wish you all the very best of luck. And you know, the bottom line is that we still have—I want you to not forget we still have a number of folks around the country in harm's way in the military. So we always end every one of—every time we say grace, we end, in my house, "God protect our troops." Thank you very, very much.
NOTE: The President spoke at 3:37 p.m. at Delaware State University. In his remarks, he referred to Zachary Bernard, student, Delaware State University; Tony Allen, president, Delaware State University, in his capacity as Chair of the President's Board of Advisers on Historically Black Colleges and Universities; Sens. Thomas R. Carper and Christopher A. Coons; Bryan Bossard, former assistant football coach, Delaware State University, who died on October 17; Tracey Quillen Carney, wife of Gov. John C. Carney, Jr.; Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester; former President Barack Obama; Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and her husband Perry Greene; and Supreme Court Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.
Joseph R. Biden, Remarks on the Federal Student Loan Debt Relief Program in Dover, Delaware Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/358481