What Will We Do About Student Debt?
According to the Biden administration (White House, 2021), they have a plan to address the growing problem of student debt in the United States. Finally, recognizing the burden of two generations of learners, this solution is currently on hold due to divisive politics and a legal challenge led by six Republican-led states (Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and South Carolina). Borrowers who qualified have now been re-notified that the relief promised is on pause. The case is now going before the Supreme Court (February 2023), where the states will argue that Biden lacks the authority to cancel student debt and that states will suffer lost tax revenue if we proceed with cancellation. We hope they lose.
The Student Debt Forgiveness Plan seems to recognize that a college education is now beyond affordability for few but the wealthy. The plan includes:
the forgiveness of up to $10,000 in federal student loans for borrowers,
the expansion of income-driven repayment plans, and
the provision of free community college for eligible students.
Forgiveness would provide relief to millions of Americans who are struggling to repay their student loans and could help to prevent further default, financial hardship, and delaying long-held American dreams of owning a home and having children. The plan includes the expansion of income-driven repayment plans, which allow borrowers to repay their loans based on their current income. It also looks forward in time, including the provision of free community college for eligible students.
This change in our national approach to supporting college students could make higher education more accessible and increase enrollment and completion rates. It would also be a small step toward equity in the growing Debt Divide of higher loan balances for low-income, Black, and Latino students, with 40-60% leaving with debt and no degree. Overall, the Biden administration's plan takes a significant step toward addressing the problem of student debt for past and future students.
So, IF the Student Loan Debt Relief plan is successful, what’s the problem?
The plan does nothing to reduce the underlying unaffordable cost of college for current students accumulating debt, which averages to nationally ~$30,000 (tinyurl.com/stdebt2022).
It has no solution for future debtors seeking an education except to suggest the non-privileged just go to community college. We do not support the notion that only privileged students deserve a 4-year public education.
Last: politics and cynicism. Perhaps because it’s a Democratic White House plan, and educated citizens tend to vote more often for Democrats, we’re seeing strong push back (and lawsuits) from the GOP.
We commend the Biden administration for this carefully constructed and vetted plan. We believe that it does not go far enough to provide the support and benefits previously offered to the Boomer generation of Americans now holding political purse strings. We think that all modern, college-going students deserve decent and diverse educational opportunities reshaped to reflect new times.
We believe America’s future depends on an educated workforce and a successful middle class. We know politicians, from the state level through Washington, can and should do better.