EDITORIAL: Student debt relief is only a beginning


Lindsey Hardin, Editorial Team

One of President Biden’s main points during the 2020 presidential campaign and one that helped him to win more than 81 million votes was his promise to provide student debt relief. Last month, the Biden Administration made the long-awaited announcement of its follow-through on that promise. Most popularly, the plan includes loan forgiveness of up to $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients with loans held by the Department of Education, while non-Pell Grant borrowers may receive up to $10,000 in debt relief. This plan also aims to make the student loan system more manageable for the future and reduce the cost of college.

Though many Americans see this decision as a huge win for college students as a whole (whether upcoming, current, or past), there are plenty who are outraged at the news. Twitter erupted after Biden’s announcement, with many showing open distaste for the decision and complaining about taxpayer dollars going towards personal debts; the loudest of the opposition have called the new plan a plot toward “socialist America”.

The truth is that this plan will be a net gain for the United States, for both those receiving debt relief and those who are not. What this means long-term is a better educated America. Circa 2018, the United States was sixth in education across the globe, and while that is phenomenal, it could be better. This plan, however, will help roughly 43 million Americans pay off their student loans and encourage many others to pursue college overall. An educated America is a stronger America, and an educated America is the America that we need.

The complicated truth is that the problem of the cost of education is multi-faceted. The price tag for a degree is prohibitive for many students. It is basically impossible for students to work their way through college the way they could fifty years ago because the cost has skyrocketed. Tuition and fees in the mid-70s were less than $1,000 a year for state residents attending public colleges. Today it’s more than $16,000. Even considering inflation, that is an incredibly debilitating increase. And what has not increased is federal support. Pell Grants once covered almost 80% of the cost of a four-year public college degree for students who qualified, but now cover only a third. That has left many students with no choice except to borrow if they want to get a degree.

What does this mean? It means that the loud voices posting about how they made it through college without taking out loans and who accuse current students of being too lazy to work their way through are comparing apples to oranges. And insisting they did it on their own doesn’t make it true. Historically, it was once taxpayers who bore the burden of college costs in the form of public institutions that were largely funded by tax dollars. The idea was that when those students graduated, they would become taxpayers themselves, who would pay for the next generation to be educated. It was a great concept, and one that would, if still in place, mean that college students wouldn’t have to rely so heavily on loans in the first place. Maybe those complaining so loudly should think about that before they make their next post on social media.