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Student Debt Forgiveness: Justifiable or Unfair?

By: Joseph D'Andrea

The issue many Americans face in regards to student debt has always been a talked-about dilemma. The debate of whether or not to provide relief—at a significant scale, or at all—gained increased attention during the 2020 election cycle, as President Joe Biden promised to aid those who owe money from the student loans they took out, or are currently borrowing, from universities. On August 24, the White House announced their plan to relieve $10,000 from qualifying borrowers, and this has caused a stir from economists, politicians and taxpayers.

To specify who exactly would be eligible for this relief proposal, this includes borrowers who earn less than $125,000 a year, or if they are married, a salary below $250,000. Additionally, Pell Grant (federal financial aid given to certain, usually impoverished students and not required to be repaid) recipients under the same parameters would be relieved of $20,000. In an economy in which 43 million Americans are burdened with outstanding student debt, according to the Education Data Initiative, the Biden Administration’s plan appears to be a critical assist to those in such a situation.

Despite the majority of Americans claiming they support the new initiative, there are still those—mostly on the conservative side of the aisle—who are opposed to this development. As mentioned, these opponents to Biden’s plan are in the minority of public opinion. A Siena poll found that 56 percent of [New Yorker] respondents overall support the plan while 33 percent of them oppose it, according to the survey of 803 adults across the state, as per the “New York Post.” Still, these Americans are worth hearing out, as they raise some legitimate pointers when it comes to the economic state of America at the moment, as well as how those who have worked to pay off their student loans throughout the decades may feel, being that they did not receive such support when it was their turn to pay their due.

President Biden’s student debt plan seeks to aid those who are working to pay off their student debt. Along with the support it has gained, there are also critics who claim there are defects to the proposal.

As someone who subscribes to a more conservative mindset politically and economically, it’s always frustrating whenever opinions from those on “my side” are over exaggerated by such commentator’s own doing, as these one-sided standpoints that may be featured in popular videos and articles can have the effect of discrediting my own, more reasonable perspective. I look past the party-line method of getting on board with politicians’ opinions, and form my own. However, I do have my own issues with Biden’s plan, from how college tuition will undoubtedly rise as a result, to how even those who did not attend college will have to contribute roughly $2,000 to the initiative through taxes, studies say. Although I am aware that there are those who have paid off their student debt and are happy for students and graduates who are being supported by the current D.C. majority, there are still quite a few Americans who feel left in the dust.

Responsibility must be taken into account in complicated financial matters such as that to do with student debt relief; just as this load off those indebted may provide them with incentive to pursue routes they may have been previously held back financially, consequences of one’s own past decisions must be seriously taken into account by these lower-income Americans, too.

As reported by Student Loan Hero in April 2020: “When asked whether mass student loan forgiveness would be unfair to former borrowers, 46% of respondents agreed. Specifically, those who have already paid off their student debt were more likely to find it unfair than those who never had debt in the first place (52% compared with 47%).”

Though technically being an outnumbered stance, that 46 percent represents millions of Americans who are opposed to their tax dollars being distributed to students who may not properly manage the break they’d be receiving.

Maxmillian Robinson ‘22 weighed in. “When I was a senior last school year, I worked four jobs during the duration of the year (including my Business MillianMade),” he said. “All jobs brought some sort of revenue, but that alone isn’t enough to cover the full cost. Thankfully I’ve been blessed enough to have financial aid granted by my university to help even out the payment. As far as the proposal, I believe it’s a double standard. Yes, there are students who are hard-working and goal-oriented. They work at their jobs and go for what they want. There are also other people that don’t work, but that’s due to their choice not to work. Not choosing sides here, but I believe that there should not be shortcuts. Yes, if people or the government is willing to help, that’s great, but everyone deserves a fair shot. That includes the ‘workaholics’ and the people ‘looking for handouts.’”

A vocal point brought up by Republicans in Congress is how the Democrats’ backing of Biden’s relief plan is being pursued now in response to the branch’s upcoming midterms. Even though this potential motivation may hold truth, at the end of the day, this party-on-party criticism proposes no alternative to the current issue at hand, which would be more useful, as opposed to indulging in yet another grudge match on Capitol Hill. Perhaps, those in Congress should work to create programs with the Department of Education that would prevent extreme loans from being taken out to begin with, for example, while assisting incoming students at the same time. I do not intend to seem as though I am blaming students who are gaining this extra padding—they have a heavy load, as proven by Robinson’s experiences—but, I feel that students should be dealt with at a more personal level, instead of taking advice from politicians.

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