The question that the reporter asked Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Monday was simple enough: Did canceling student-loan debt figure into his plans for the economy and would he take executive action to do so?

His response came during a question-and-answer session after Mr. Biden had delivered his first speech on the economy as president-elect.

“It does figure in my plan,” Mr. Biden replied, before referencing legislation proposed by House Democrats that called for immediate forgiveness of $10,000 in student-loan debt as part of a pandemic-relief bill. “It’s holding people up,” he said about student debt. “They’re in real trouble. They’re having to make choices between paying their student loans and paying their rent, those kinds of decisions. It should be done immediately.”

He then offered an overview of plans he introduced during his campaign, including ensuring that anyone whose families made less than $125,000 would have access to free education.

But in his answer, Mr. Biden did not explicitly say whether he supported canceling all student-loan debt. Nor did he say if he would cancel student-loan debt through executive action — animating progressives, who have been seeking to push him further left on the issue for months.

Social media soon lit up with calls on the left for Mr. Biden to cancel all student debt, a signature policy issue championed by progressive leaders including Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Already, the idea of canceling student-loan debt has been gaining some traction in the party. Mr. Biden himself has proposed a loan forgiveness program for workers in public service: For each year of service, for up to five years, workers would be eligible to have $10,000 of their undergraduate or graduate debt eliminated.

And Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic minority leader, said in a recent interview that he and Ms. Warren had a proposal to eliminate the first $50,000 of student-loan debt, and that he believed Mr. Biden could do so through executive action in the first 100 days of his presidency.

“We believe that Joe Biden can do that with the pen as opposed to legislation,” Mr. Schumer said.

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