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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.
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.
“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.
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?”
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.