March 3, 2024
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden's student loan plan could cost $24 billion a year but admitted the administration still isn't totally sure of the cost.

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White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Thursday that President Biden’s student loan handout plan could cost about $24 billion a year – assuming 75% of those eligible take advantage of it. 

“The other piece of this is… too is we’re going to see,” Jean-Pierre told CNN’s Don Lemon as he pressed her on when the White House would release a cost estimate for the plan. 

She continued, “I said assuming people take us up on this student debt relief plan that the president put forth that’s why I said assuming 75%, so we are going to share what that’s going to look like. I wanted to give you a little bit of what we’re thinking how this is… how this is going to move forward.”

The $24 billion a year estimate is under the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget’s analysis released Thursday that the program will cost between $440 and $600 billion, settling on a central estimate of approximately $500 billion.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE SAYS WHITE HOUSE DOESN’T HAVE ‘REAL SENSE’ OF HOW MUCH STUDENT LOAN HANDOUT WILL COST 

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre holds the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S. August 25, 2022. 

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre holds the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S. August 25, 2022.  (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

If 75% of eligible participants take advantage, Jean-Pierre’s estimate would cost roughly $240 billion over 10 years and would be closer to $320 billion with 100% participation. 

Earlier Thursday, she admitted that the Biden administration isn’t yet sure of the cost and said it would depend heavily on borrowers and how many of the loans were expected to be repaid. 

BIDEN ADMINISTRATION WILL ‘LOOK INTO’ AND ‘CRACK DOWN’ ON COLLEGES RAISING TUITION AFTER STUDENT LOAN HANDOUT 

CNN host Don Lemon pressed White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre Thursday evening on when the Biden administration would release a detailed cost estimate. 

CNN host Don Lemon pressed White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre Thursday evening on when the Biden administration would release a detailed cost estimate.  (CNN)

“All of this, when it comes to cost, will depend on how many of the loans canceled were actually expected to be repaid,” Jean-Pierre said. “It will depend on how many borrowers actually take up this opportunity before we have a real sense.”

She argued the cost will be offset by the deficit reduction included in other Biden administration priorities. 

President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022. 

President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022.  (Bonnie Cash/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Jean-Pierre also dodged questions from Fox News White House Correspondent Peter Doocey Wednesday when he tried to drill down who would be responsible for paying for the plan. 

“When you forgive debt you’re not just disappearing debt,” Doocey pressed after the press secretary initially avoided his first question. “Who is paying for this?” 

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She continued to argue that Biden’s accomplishments have brought down the deficit, which would help pay for the program.

Biden announced up to $20,000 in federal student loan forgiveness on Wednesday. Students who attended college using federal Pell Grants qualify for the $20,000, but those who did not use the program qualify for $10,000 in forgiveness. The handout only applies to borrowers making less than $125,000 per year.

Fox News’ Anders Hagstrom contributed to this report.