FOR THE WEEK OF SEP. 05, 2022
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The president keeps a 2020 campaign promise with an action that will help millions of college and trade school students by wiping out up to $20,000 in education loan debt. Borrowers who earn less than $125,000 a year, or families with income under $250,000, qualify for $10,000 in forgiveness for loans taken out before July 2022. For those who also got Pell Grants, which go to undergraduates with the greatest financial need, the federal government will cancel up to $10,000 more in federal debt. "These targeted actions are for families who need it the most: working and middle class people hit especially hard during the pandemic," President Biden said at a late August announcement.
About 20 million people will have much or all of their federal student loan balances eliminated, the White House says. "That's 20 million people who can start getting on with their lives," Biden said. "People can start to finally crawl out from under that mountain of debt, to get on top of their rent and utilities, to finally think about buying a home or starting a family or starting a business." Borrowers can qualify even if they didn't graduate. Current students may be eligible if not claimed as a dependent by a parent or anyone else.
Some Republicans in Congress see this as an unfair, unwise use of public money. "What President Biden has, in effect, decided to do is to take from working-class people . . . thousands of dollars in taxes in order to redistribute it to college graduates who have student loans," says Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.
In response, the White House and defenders of the president's move note that many blue-collar jobs require training, licenses and certifications. "People go to school to meet these requirements. They apply for the same federal student loans and take on the same debt as someone going to college," writes Jamelle Bouie, a New York Times columnist. "The idea that student loan relief is a handout to a small minority of affluent college graduates is simply a myth." Harvard University economist Susan Dynarski agrees. "The huge run-up in [loan] defaults has not been driven by $100,000 debts incurred by students at expensive private colleges," she says. "Rather, they are driven by $8,000 loans at for-profit colleges and, to a lesser extent, community colleges. These are the borrowers who will benefit."
Borrower says: "I almost dropped my phone when I saw the news alert. It felt like a huge weight had been lifted off of my shoulders, and I could finally breathe a bit easier." -- Alexandra Steinheimer, 35, an IT manager in Washington, D.C.
President says: "This relief means breathing room for Americans to build a better future for themselves and their families." – Biden tweet last Thursday
Critic says: "Most Americans who did go to college either have paid their loans off or are paying them off. Now they have been turned into chumps for living within their means — while paying, through their taxes, for those who didn't." – Bret Stephens, New York Times columnist