Graphic by Poppy Cartledge

The Biden Administration’s Long Road to Student Loan Relief

Current and former HSU students reflect on the Biden administration’s student loan relief plans.

President Joe Biden leaves his first day of office with continued pressure to follow through with his proposal to relieve $10,000 off all borrowers’ debt following his extension of the nearly year long federal student loan freeze through September 2021.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, Biden took to Twitter to share his thoughts on the first stimulus bill, where he also urged that some sort of student loan relief should be included within it.

It's simple: The White House and @senatemajldr have tried to put corporate bailouts ahead of families.

No bill should pass without conditions on corporations to ensure the help they get goes to their workers, not their CEOs. No blank checks.

No bill should pass without immediate, generous relief for workers who are losing jobs and hours, small businesses losing revenue, and communities facing emergency needs.

Additionally, we should forgive a minimum of $10,000/person of federal student loans, as proposed by Senator Warren and colleagues. Young people and other student debt holders bore the brunt of the last crisis. It shouldn't happen again.

We should also increase monthly Social Security checks by $200/month, as proposed by Senator Wyden and colleagues. Seniors and people with disabilities are uniquely at risk right now.

In this moment of crisis, we should be sending federal resources to those who need it most. It's not just good economics — it's the right thing to do. We have to get this right.

Originally tweeted by Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) on Sunday, March 22, 2020.

Within his first day of office, Biden made progress with his proposition to tackle the student debt crisis through addressing the issue within one of the 17 executive orders made. This consisted of extending the pause on interest and principal payments for student loans through Sept. 30.

Following this busy first day, many members of Congress are pushing Biden to do more. The likes of Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer are leading a group of other influential Democrats in pursuit of asking for $50,000 of forgiveness per each federal student loan borrower. A few of the more progressive members of Congress, such as Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders, are calling for complete cancellation of student debt. As COVID-19 cases are on the surge, they collectively believe that tackling the burden of student debt is essential to combat the financial hardship that citizens are going through.

Lily McIntire received both her Bachelors and Masters degrees studying Biology at HSU. She is currently in the process of obtaining her PhD in Ecology at San Diego State University.

In regards to what she hoped for student debt forgiveness with this new administration, McIntire was apprehensive. She explained that the accumulation of the student debt crisis has always been a looming issue, but the pandemic has made it more of an upfront issue.

“I’ve been in school continuously, so I’ve been in deference,” said McIntire when asked how the burden of student loans has affected her personally. “However, they have stopped interest fees until September too, which is a huge relief for me because a lot of my debt from grad school was unsubsidized.”

According to data that was crunched by the Department of Education, the average debt for an HSU graduate student is around $20,000. However, only around 26% of these students are making some progress toward repayment.

Peggy Metzger is the Director of Financial Aid Services at Humboldt State and feels enthusiastic about the change that the Biden Administration has the potential to make for recent graduates.

“There are a lot of students at the University that are out there with a debt of $10,000 or less,” said Metzger. “The amount of students that would be able to wipe out their debt completely is quite large.”

Metzger also said that the relief of student loan debt could potentially help graduates focus on obtaining their first job or buying that first house. It would allow them to get a better start in life.

Karolyn Fagundes is currently a graduate student at HSU who is in the process of obtaining a masters in forestry and has thought little about her student debt situation post-graduation.

“I’m pretty deep in student loan debt, but I don’t know how it’ll affect me after graduation,” said Fagundes.

Fagundes explains how the idea of being in debt is not entirely concrete since she has yet to make any payments. However, she feels skeptical about the current administration’s capabilities to make a real difference when it comes to student loan debt. Like many, Fagundes is questioning whether this first executive action made by the Biden administration is setting the tone for further progress with student loan forgiveness.

“In the coming days and weeks we will be announcing additional executive actions that confront these challenges and deliver on the President-elect’s promises to the American people,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement on a press call the on Jan. 19 before inauguration day.

In the coming months, the Biden administration is going to be watched closely as they are expected to make longer strides toward combatting many pressing issues during such a vulnerable time. The student debt crisis is currently on the hot seat and Biden’s exact plan of action is still unclear for many.

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