House Republicans demand answers from CBO after it 'miscalculated' student loan program budget by $500B

The miscalculation, according to Republicans, led to taxpayers paying for more than $400 billion in student loans

FIRST ON FOX: House Republicans are calling on the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to provide information on how it "miscalculated" the costs of the federal student loan program associated with the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act.

Signed into law in 2010 by former President Obama, the measure, which included a federally-backed student loan program, was estimated to save taxpayers $40 to $62 billion from 2010 to 2020. However, in 2019, the CBO issued a new projection and said the program would cost taxpayers $31.5 billion over the next ten years.

Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio, and members of the House Freedom Caucus conduct a news conference to call on Attorney General William Barr to release findings of an investigation into allegations of 2020 election fraud, outside the Capitol on Thursday, December 3, 2020.

Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio, and members of the House Freedom Caucus conduct a news conference outside the Capitol Dec. 3, 2020. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images / Getty Images)


In a letter sent to CBO Director Phillip Swagel on Friday, 15 House Republicans requested the formulas the agency used that led to the miscalculation and resulted in taxpayers footing more than $400 billion for the creation of the program.

The letter highlights an internal analysis conducted by the Department of Education in 2020 which evaluated $1.37 trillion in student loans held by the federal government. The department concluded, as noted in the letter, that loan borrowers would pay back $935 billion worth of those loans, leaving taxpayer dollars to fund the remaining $435 billion.

"CBO miscalculated the cost of the Healthcare and Reconciliation Act by $503 billion, before factoring in President Biden’s student loan bailouts," the Republicans wrote. "Congress may not have passed this bill had CBO appropriately scored it. Congress needs an updated, accurate and transparent estimate from CBO so it can fix our student lending programs going forward."

In addition, the Republicans stated in the letter that it was important for Congress and members of the public to "have access to disclosures on the data, programs, models, assumptions and other details that CBO uses to estimate the cost of legislation."

The agency used the same formulas in 2019 that were used prior to the measure becoming law to calculate the program's budgetary impact and reached differing conclusions.

Phillip Swagel

Congressional Budget Office Director Phillip Swagel testifies before the Legislative Branch Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee during a hearing in the U.S. Capitol Feb. 12, 2020, in Washington. (Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images / Getty Images)

Led by Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio, the letter also called for the agency to issue a new projection on the cost of the measure, including "the total projected cost of these student lending programs on taxpayers," and insisted that "transparency is necessary to ensure accuracy and confidence in CBO’s reports."


"Due to CBO’s miscalculation, taxpayers are on the hook for an unexpected $435 billion," Davidson said in a statement to Fox News Digital. "Biden’s call to cancel student loan debt and appease the radical left only shifts more cost onto hardworking Americans. Congress needs an accurate analysis so that we can fix the federal student loan program going forward."

Federal student loan payments were first paused in May 2020 under former President Donald Trump. But as the economy exited the pandemic, President Biden extended that pause multiple times after taking office, drawing criticism from Republicans.

Joe Biden

President Biden speaks during an event in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus Feb. 22, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci / AP Newsroom)

It was reported this week that Biden told members of Congress he’s looking at options to forgive student loans through executive action.

Speaking about the pause in loan payments, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that executive action from the president is on the table. 

"He will make a decision before there's an end to that pause," Psaki said. "Right now, it's been extended through August … and he is looking at other executive authority options."


Progressives are pushing Biden to completely forgive student loan debt via executive order. They say the crushing debt hanging over many college graduates’ heads is forcing them to delay major life decisions and that student debt disproportionately affects minorities.

On Wednesday, Fox News reported that Senate Minority Whip John Thune and a group of GOP senators would introduce a bill to prevent Biden from canceling student debt amid news Biden is considering proposals to forgive unpaid student loans. 

Fox News' Tyler Olson contributed to this article.