Photo: Evan Vucci/AP
Joe Biden has announced student loan debt relief of up to $10,000 for millions of US graduates who are fulfilling a campaign promise.
The US Department of Education provides up to $10,000 in debt relief and up to $20,000 in debt relief to Pell Grant recipients. The move pleased many, angered Republicans and left some feeling like they didn’t go far enough.
Here, some US graduates share their take on the plan and what it means for them.
“$10,000 is a condescendingly small amount”
It cost me $400,000 in debt to complete my degree. And the interest continues. $10,000 is a condescendingly small sum for the staggering cost of education in this country. Biden’s relief percentage should have been at least 15%. He could have done a lot more to reach out to victims of the system like me and those with college degrees who had to self-fund their education and were unable to work due to academic requirements or disability. Ben Greenberg, 42, psychologist, New Mexico
“It’s going to be a game changer”
This will be a turning point for me as an American in the UK, where I have lived for the last five years. I received Pell scholarships for my undergraduate teaching degree and am left with about $16,000 in credit after attending George Mason University, a public school in Northern Virginia. Before I went to the UK, debt was terrifying and, frankly, I ignored it because I knew it was a ghost that would haunt me if I ever moved back to America. I am doing well in the UK at the moment – I work for the NHS and will be studying at graduate school to qualify as an Allied Health Professional.
America’s student loan debt is the main reason I felt I couldn’t return to America even if I wanted to. Times were difficult; I graduated in 2008, just before the first recession, and was never able to climb the wealth ladder, never really gotten a promotion because they froze teachers’ salaries in my county for four years, and was never stable enough to even consider getting one to start a family.
Debt cancellation would wipe out all of my remaining elementary school loan balances and make an immense difference. As an expat, I don’t know yet if I can’t qualify for any bureaucratic reasons – but if I do, it will be fantastic. Chantel, 38, Canterbury, Kent
“It’s a good start”
I have a BA in English and Philosophy from Salem State University and an MA in Philosophy from Brandeis University. Eliminating $10,000 to $20,000 in student loans is a good start, but that’s all: a start. It will certainly improve the lives of many borrowers, but as someone with nearly $50,000 in student loan debt, I don’t think this cancellation will drastically change my situation once the debt payment freeze ends. I don’t think I’m alone with that.
I have a full-time job as a librarian and my wife (who also works full-time) and I don’t always find it easy to earn rent at the end of the month on our modest apartment we share with a roommate. That we still have to borrow tens of thousands of dollars to pay for education is an insult. Jeremy Mele, 27, librarian, Salem, Massachusetts
“Biden’s Student Loan Relief Policy Doesn’t Help Me or Thousands of Others”
Biden’s student loan relief policy does nothing for me or the thousands of others who have chosen to refinance their student loans with private lenders. For years, I endured crushing interest rates on the federal income-tested repayment plan because I believed my years of full-time community service would qualify me for government loan forgiveness.
But I didn’t qualify: I had the wrong loan type, which my loan servicer didn’t point out to me when I asked if I qualified. Instead of continuing to pay 7.5% interest on my debt, I refinanced at a lower rate and tried to cut my losses. I’m happy that so many people will experience some relief, but Biden’s policies aren’t addressing the source of the rot: a financial system that thrives on our precariousness. Ingrid Haftel, 38, works at a nonprofit in Brooklyn
“I owe $317,000”
I’m sure Biden’s new plan will come as a relief to some, but after two MA degrees and a PhD, I owe a whopping $317,000. I was lucky enough to get my BA with no debt, but an MA in New York from FIT, a budget state school, and then two degrees in the UK, at Durham and King’s College London, cost quite a bit. I couldn’t get funding in the UK but I studied modern British history so it was important to work there. My employment qualifies for the PSLF program, but I have five years before my loans are forgiven.
The $10,000 does not relieve my financial burden and is only part of the large amount that the government will award when I finally reach the required 120 payments for the PSLF program. I make $65,500 a year in a field where jobs are few. My payments are based on my income but I dread the day the payments will stop again.
My budget is already stretched so thin; I’m stressed about it every day. I live simply and frugally, and on my birthday last year I couldn’t even afford a Chinese takeaway. How on earth am I going to make ends meet when payments resume? I’m particularly concerned that even if I could save and afford a house, I wouldn’t be able to get the funding I need because of college debt. Ann, 42, Seattle, Curator, University Art Gallery, Washington