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Student Debt and President Biden’s Plan

By Malika Burieva

The struggles of being a college student involve the payment of expensive tuition bills that many students can’t afford. This is a direct cause of student debt when they take out student loans. This problem has affected students of all colleges, including community and state colleges, public and private universities. Higher education is becoming too expensive for the average student. According to Experian, as of June 2022, the average American is $39,381 deep in student loan debt. Even former college students who have long since graduated, on the path of obtaining jobs, promotions or higher positions, are still paying off their student loans. These include graduates who have chosen an entirely different path from what they majored or minored in.

Kristen Capezza, Adelphi’s vice president of enrollment management and university communications Photo from Adelphi website

On August 24, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris announced the Biden-Harris Administration's Student Debt Relief Plan, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education. The plan proposes $10,000 of student loan forgiveness for federal student loan borrowers and $20,000 for those who received a Pell Grant for college. To be eligible, single borrowers must meet income levels of under $125,000, while married couples must meet an income of under $250,000.

Some students nationally have deemed this plan as unfair due to the income data being too high to be considered for relief, but others welcome it. At Adelphi, the administration and students both had responses to the creation of the debt-relief program.

“President Biden's legislation to reduce debt for millions of borrowers was groundbreaking and timely, especially given the pandemic-related financial stress facing so many of our students and families,” said Kristen Capezza, vice president of enrollment management and university communications. “We hope it will help many of today's graduates be able to more confidently pursue their goals of graduate and continuing education. However, this one-time measure does not address affordability and financial literacy in a sustainable ongoing fashion. For this reason, Adelphi remains committed to educating our students and families every year about responsible borrowing and maximizing return on investment.”

The Delphian reached out to students as well. Iyana Baskerville, a senior English literature major in STEP for Adolescent Education, said, “I do have loans out so I definitely benefit from Biden’s loan forgiveness. I can’t speak for others but for me it will cover a significant amount of my debt, even if it’s not all of it. I definitely think more needs to be done but for right now it’s a step in the right direction.”

“I think that it’s a really good idea, especially for me. My mom and I are paying for my schooling,” said Mariyam Majid, junior nursing major. “It’s really hard, especially for middle-class families who work hard to pay for school. I think it’s like a little weight off of your shoulders. If Biden actually goes with this plan and sticks with it, then it’ll be of good help.”

Nicole Cecere, a junior who has a communications concentration in public relations and journalism, said, “It’s relieving to me because I wanted to go to community college for the first two years and then I wanted to transfer to a private school just to save money. I always wanted to go to Adelphi. So, it makes me feel good about my decision because I’m going to get this money back. I didn’t have to sacrifice two years of my Adelphi experience just for money.”

For Jessie Mosley, a junior communications major focused on media studies and a minor in human resources, the fact that the plan will reduce her loans by the time she graduates in 2024 is appealing. “This reduced loan will most likely help me purchase a home earlier than before. I think it is an amazing plan that I hope will help many students.”

The relief is given through the outstanding debt that the borrower has. For instance, if the borrower is eligible for debt relief of $20,000 yet has a remaining balance of $15,000, only $15,000 will be given in relief. When receiving relief, some borrowers are not required to file anything. This is due to the fact that nearly 8 million borrowers may be eligible to receive relief automatically through income data having been filed and available in the system by the U.S. Department of Education. If not, the Administration plans to release an application that is expected to be available in early October. After one completes the application, they should expect relief in about four to six weeks.

Another program that stems from the Biden-Harris Student Debt Relief Plan is the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF). The PSLF program forgives the remaining balance of borrowers on federal student loans after 120 payments while working full-time public service occupations for federal, state, tribal or local government, including military or a qualifying non-profit. Temporary changes to the program will be ending on October 31, 2022. This will provide flexibility, making it easier to receive forgiveness by allowing borrowers to receive credit for past repayment periods. Individuals that enroll on or after November 1, 2022, will not be eligible.

For current and future borrowers, the Biden-Harris Administration is instituting rules to make student loans more feasible. Borrowers are now required to pay no more than 5 percent of their discretionary income monthly on undergraduate loans compared to the previous 10 percent. The amount of income that is considered non-discretionary will be raised and it will be protected from repayment, which will guarantee no borrower earning under 225 percent of the federal poverty level (the annual equivalent of a $15 minimum wage for a single borrower) will have to make a monthly payment. Loan balances after 10 years of payments will be pardoned as an alternative to 20 years for borrowers with loan balances of $12,000 or less. Finally, the borrower's unpaid monthly interest will be covered so no borrower's loan balance will grow as long as they make their monthly payments, even when that monthly payment is zero due to low income.

The expenses of higher education are becoming unaffordable. This is a constant struggle seen yearly in the U.S. Student loan debt leads to poor financial decision-making and mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and suicide, according to the Network for Public Health Law. The Biden-Harris administration's Student Debt Relief Plan will benefit past students, current students, and future students with the colossal accumulation of student loans.

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