Here's what it would mean to these Americans if Biden canceled student loan debt

By |2022-06-18T08:36:12-04:00June 18th, 2022|Uncategorized|

Washington CNN  —  About 43 million people are waiting to find out if President Joe Biden will wipe away all or part of their federal student loan debt. In April, after facing months of pressure from other Democrats to cancel $50,000 per borrower, Biden said he was considering some broad student loan forgiveness, though a smaller amount. On the campaign trail, Biden said he would support $10,000 in forgiveness. White House officials have indicated that he is also looking at setting an income threshold so that high-earning borrowers would be excluded from the debt relief. The decision is expected to come before August 31, when the pandemic-related pause on federal student loan payments is set to end. Until now, Biden has taken a more targeted approach to student debt relief. His administration has authorized the cancellation of $25 billion so far – more than any other administration – largely for borrowers who were defrauded by their for-profit colleges and for permanently disabled borrowers. He has also temporarily expanded the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program that forgives the debt of government and nonprofit workers after 10 years of payments and made changes to the income-driven repayment plans, bringing millions of borrowers closer to forgiveness. While broad student loan debt cancellation could deliver financial relief to millions of Americans, the implications of such a significant policy move – intended and otherwise – are complicated. On its own, the action would do nothing to bring down the cost of college for future borrowers or help those who have already paid for their degrees. CNN spoke with eight former college students about what it would mean for them if Biden canceled some student loan debt. Educator: $68,000 in student loan debt “It’s pretty soul crushing,” said Lindsay Clausen, 33, who has watched her student loan debt grow from $40,000 to $68,000 since she finished her master’s degree – despite making regular payments. Clausen went to the State University of New York at Potsdam to earn her bachelor’s degree in English Language Arts and 6-12 education, choosing the school partly because the campus was close enough that she could live at home to save money. While substitute teaching, she decided to pursue her master’s degree – which typically must be obtained within five years of earning an initial teaching certificate to teach in New York state. When she finished her master’s degree in educational technology in 2014, teaching jobs were scarce in the Potsdam area and her now-husband wanted to move back home to Washington state. Clausen decided to make the move with him, and after a couple of years she landed a job as an instructional design coordinator at a university, where she still works today. The job allows her to combine her teaching and technology skills. Clausen has been enrolled in an income-driven repayment plan, one of the several repayment options available for federal student loan borrowers. IDR plans allow a borrower to make smaller monthly payments, which are tied to the borrower’s income and family size. But because smaller payments are being made, hardly anything is going toward paying down the principal and the amount of outstanding debt has grown. Clausen could qualify for debt forgiveness after making 10 years of payments under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program because she works in the public sector. But Clausen is skeptical after reading about how very few people have qualified so far. Many borrowers were not eligible for forgiveness when they thought they would be because they had the wrong type of federal loan or were enrolled in the wrong type of repayment plan. The Biden administration has temporarily expanded the PSLF program, aiming to fix the problems that earlier borrowers faced and recount payments that may have been missed. “Hope is the operative word here. I’m not necessarily banking on it 100% because who knows with the next administration what they’re going to decide,” she said. Congress would need to act to do away with Public Service Loan Forgiveness – something lawmakers did not take up after the Trump administration proposed cutting it from the federal budget four years in a row. If Biden canceled some student debt with the stroke of a pen, it would end a lot of uncertainty and anxiety for Clausen. But she says $10,000 wouldn’t make much of a difference for her. “I couldn’t do what I do today if I didn’t have my degree. And I’m very proud of the work that I’ve done and the people I’ve met along the way – it’s been life-changing for sure,” Clausen said. “I guess the part I struggle with is why we put a price tag on access and education at all. Because it seems to be something that is only keeping down middle- to low income- folks,” she added. Human resources representative: $80,000 in student loan debt Monica Mitchell, 43, says she borrowed about $80,000 for “a better future that never happened.” She enrolled twice at the now-shuttered Vatterott College, a for-profit school – first to get a degree in computer programming and then in the school’s cosmetology program. She said that neither ultimately led her to a better-paying job and she’s currently working in human resources. As a young single mother of two kids, Mitchell considered enlisting in the military. But after her sister was deployed to Iraq straight out of boot camp, she decided to explore her college options instead. She met with a recruiter from Vatterott College, which had a campus near her home in Missouri. “I wanted something fast and accelerated. Four years was too long having two kids. In my mind, Vatterott was going to give me an edge up,” Mitchell recalled. The program wasn’t quite what she expected. The instructors moved fast, and she didn’t get training in the software she thought she’d need. She finished with an associate degree in computer programming in 2004. Five years later, she decided to enroll in a cosmetology program that Vatterott offered. But, she said, the school didn’t document her hours and those of other students correctly – shortchanging them time and delaying their graduation dates. She left after three to four months without a license. “It was a real waste of time. So go figure, years later I’m still sitting with massive debt with nothing to show for it,” Mitchell said. She mostly lives paycheck to paycheck and hasn’t been able to make any payments on her student loan debt. The loans fell into default before the Covid-19 pandemic. The Biden administration has said it will move loans out of default before the pandemic-related pause on payments ends, which could get her back on track. What also frustrates Mitchell is that the government has canceled some federal student debt for students from other for-profit schools that misled their students. Those who were enrolled at Vatterott when it shut down – citing economic and regulatory conditions – are also eligible for debt relief from the federal government, but that was years after Mitchell attended. She’s not currently eligible for any relief as far as she knows. The Biden administration has been working to accelerate offering relief to borrowers who were defrauded by their for-profit colleges. “I’m just wondering why some students got their loans forgiven and others, like myself, are still being burdened,” Mitchell said. “They had the same issues that I had, the same complaints that I had. It’s just a mess,” she added. If some of her student loan debt was canceled, Mitchell has considered returning to school again in hopes of achieving the better future she’s been seeking. Retired veteran: $0 of student loan debt