Florida Governor Ron DeSantis criticized President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan as «very unfairIowa Governor Kim Reynolds has denounced the policy as «inconceivable», «wrong» and «out of touch». «unamerican» and «socialism» are the words used by the governor of Arkansas, Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Yet all three Republican governors offer at least one state program for student loan forgiveness or repayment.
They are far from the only ones.
NBC News reviewed student loan forgiveness policies in states where a Republican governor called for an end to Biden’s plan or a Republican attorney general sued to stop it.
The review found that the vast majority of those states actually offer their own taxpayer-funded student loan forgiveness programs. Nearly as many have seen Republican-sponsored bills in current legislative sessions to expand those programs or create new ones.
Last year, the Republican governors of 22 states signed a letter Demanding Biden to immediately “withdraw” his student debt forgiveness plan. Weeks later, a group of six Republican-led states sued the Biden administration in federal court, seeking to block implementation of the plan, one of two lawsuits heard by the Supreme Court, whose decisions over the next two months will determine the future. of the program
But 20 of the 23 states that signed the letter and/or sued have at least one, and in most cases, multiple state programs that offer student loan forgiveness or repayment.
And in 17 of the 23, there is at least one GOP-sponsored bill in the current legislative session that proposes to expand an existing program or create a new one to offer student loan forgiveness or repayment.
Advocates of student loan forgiveness say the position held by officials in these red states amounts to hypocrisy. They point out that many Republican leaders seek to criticize Biden but not their own states or legislatures for carrying out similar plans.
“The first thing that strikes me is the hypocrisy,” said Natalia Abrams, president of the Student Debt Crisis Center, a nonpartisan, nonprofit group that advocates for the complete cancellation of all federal student loan debt.
However, Republican officials in states with existing loan forgiveness programs and proposals to expand them say there’s a difference between general loan forgiveness and their own states’ efforts to fill various gaps in certain professions by offering financial incentives. They also claim that their state programs are constitutional, while Biden’s is not. Their program, they say, amounts to overreach by the federal government.
But one of the most prominent Republicans critics has been that loan forgiveness provides a «unfair» advantage to people who still had debt over others who had already paid off theirs or decided to forgo college altogether.
«College may not be the right choice for all Americans, but for students who applied for loans, it was their choice: capable adults and willing borrowers who knowingly agreed to the terms of the loan and agreed to borrow in exchange for take classes,» the 22 Republican governors wrote in their letter. «A high-priced title isn’t the key to unlocking the American Dream—hard work and personal responsibility are. For many borrowers, they worked hard, made sacrifices, and paid off their debt. For many others, they chose hard work and a paycheck instead of more school and a loan.
Advocates point out that the state programs offered in most of those governors’ states, however, provide the same type of loan forgiveness they have belittled.
“Republican politicians are speaking out of both sides of their mouths,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, in a statement to NBC News. «His hypocrisy of hers shows what working Americans already know to be true: Student debt cancellation is an urgent and very popular need.»
Biden’s program would cancel up to $10,000 in debt for borrowers making less than $125,000 a year (or couples filing jointly and making less than $250,000 a year), regardless of profession or location. Pell Grant recipients, who are the majority of borrowers, would be eligible for an additional $10,000 in debt relief.
All existing state programs, as well as proposed programs and expansions, apply, or would apply, the forgiveness and payment of student debt to people who work in specific professions or areas.
For example, the five states that sued the Biden administration and whose Republican governors demanded that the president withdraw the program (Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, and South Carolina) currently have at least 10 programs in place that are partially or fully funded by the state that offer student loan forgiveness or repayment for specific professions, including teachers, nurses, and health professionals in rural areas.
Republican lawmakers in those states have sponsored bills this year that include expanding those programs to mental health professionals in Iowa and Nebraskato public health professionals and vets in Missourito more teachers and doctors in rural areas of arkansas and to law enforcement officials in South Carolina.
Texas, whose governor and two Republican senators have criticized Biden’s plan as «unfair”, currently offers at least nine specific student loan forgiveness plans, for certain nurses, doctors, teachers, legal aid attorneys and employees of the state attorney general’s office, while Republican state lawmakers have offered 11 other bills law in the current legislative session. Those proposals include expanding existing student loan forgiveness policies to nurses and creating new programs to help forgive student loans for math and science teachers, lawyers in rural areas, mental health professionals and other workers
Georgia: The home state of Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who criticized Biden’s plan as «unfair» despite having millions in own federal loans forgiven — currently offers a student loan forgiveness plan for doctors in rural areas, while Republican lawmakers in the Legislature have so far introduced at least five bills that would offer student loan forgiveness for «peace officers» health workers, nurses and staff of the state General Assembly.
However, the Republican governors in both (Brian Kemp of Georgia, Greg Abbott of Texas) signed the letter demanding that Biden withdraw his own student loan forgiveness plan.
NBC News contacted all the Republican governors in the 22 states that signed that letter, as well as the six Republican attorneys general in the states that sued to block the plan.
Many defended their states’ programs by saying there was a significant difference, both in substance and legally, between the broader policy offered by Biden and the more specific policies offered by their states, though none of the responding officials addressed the questions of why it was acceptable for the states, but not the federal government, to forgive the debt.
Several also reiterated one of the legal arguments used in the lawsuit against Biden: that the White House plan is illegal and unconstitutional because it circumvents Congress, which they say has the sole power to create laws related to student loan forgiveness, and because it is incorrectly based on a decades-old law that the Biden administration has upheld allows you to write off loans to counter the economic effects of the Covid pandemic.
“A single student debt relief program for all Ivy League graduates that bypasses the legislative authority of Congress and is shaped by executive order is in no way comparable to legislation designed to attract and grow a workforce a top-level candidate who can fill crucial positions related to public safety and health care and is carefully considered by the House of Representatives and the Senate,” Garrison Douglas, a spokesman for Kemp, the Georgia governor, said in a statement.
“Unlike President Biden’s unconstitutional executive order, the Florida Nursing Student Loan Forgiveness Program is authorized by Chapter 1009.66, Florida Statutes,” Jeremy Redfern, a spokesman for DeSantis, said in a statement.
Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach said in a statement that there was no hypocrisy at stake in his office’s decision to sue Biden even though the state has several student loan forgiveness plans on its books because «one is unconstitutional and the other not”.
“The executive branch of the federal government does not have the unilateral authority under the US Constitution to forgive loans and spend the money to pay off the debt without an act of Congress,” he said.
Alexa Henning, a spokeswoman for the Arkansas governor, said the federal program and Arkansas’ student loan forgiveness programs were «not remotely similar.»
«As the governor said, what Joe Biden did is socialism and unconstitutional, he wants those who didn’t go to school or already paid off their loans to pay back hundreds of billions of dollars of other people’s debts,» he said in a statement. release. .
NBC News also contacted 20 of the dozens of Republican lawmakers who have offered bills in their current sessions to expand or create new state programs that offer student loan forgiveness. None agreed to be interviewed, although an assistant answered the questions.
Jason Moyer, chief of staff for Texas State Representative Frederick Frazier, who sponsored a bill expanding a student loan forgiveness program for certain teachers, said his boss’s proposal «is unmatched by student loan forgiveness.» federal student debt.
“It’s tuition reimbursement, but the federal program is much broader,” he said.
That distinction, however, doesn’t ring true for student loan advocates.
“You know, it all depends on what they want to label as overreach,” said Abrams of the Student Debt Crisis Center, referring to Republicans. «And it seems like it comes down to who’s the messenger with that.»