Who Gets Student Loan Forgiveness? Relief brings joy, anguish

For Nick Marcil, forgiving $10,000 of his student loans could mean finally leaving his parents’ house.

Marcil, 24, attended a Pennsylvania state college, won scholarships and worked while pursuing a degree in education, but still owed $18,000 before Wednesday’s action by the Biden administration to erase some student loans.

“I feel like if I didn’t have that burden, I would be more likely to, you know, try to move — try to have, you know, my own house,” Marcil said, who lives in a suburb of Philadelphia. .

For borrowers like Marcil – including millions whose entire debt will be erased – the decision means new freedom to move around, start a family or hold down a low-paying but fulfilling job. But for many others, the long-awaited plan brings bitterness and frustration.

Many student borrowers feel left out, perhaps because they did not qualify for federal loans and had to rely on private loans, which will not be forgiven. Other Americans are unhappy with the break current debtors will receive because they have already paid off debt, worked to avoid college loans or opposed the decision on philosophical grounds.

Then there are the systemic effects. Some inflation watchers fear that the new purchasing power of borrowers will drive prices up even further. The loan forgiveness is estimated to cost the government more than $300 billion, according to an analysis of Penn Wharton’s budget model. And the relief does nothing to address the skyrocketing cost of college.

The frustration may be greater for the more than half a million people who owe more than $200,000 in federal loans. For these borrowers, $10,000 to $20,000 seems disconnected from the exorbitant cost of American higher education. Last year, the average state college tuition cost more than $10,000, and the average private college charged $37,000 per year.

Christian Smith, 32, will owe more than $60,000 when she completes her undergraduate degree at the University of Colorado at Denver next year. This is roughly equivalent to his annual household income. “It’s overwhelming,” she said.

Smith, who works full-time in student outreach for the Young Invincibles, a nonprofit that advocates for students and youth, estimates she and her partner will both pay $900 a month to repay their loans students once she graduates.

“We’re talking about buying a house, but that just doesn’t seem like something I’ll ever be able to do,” she said.

Having a child also feels painfully out of reach. Smith plans to postpone motherhood until she has paid off her school debt.

“I was poor growing up, and I don’t want that for my child,” she says. “I don’t mean that you can’t attend this field trip or that you have to wear used clothes that the other kids make fun of.”

If President Joe Biden had chosen to provide further student debt relief, it would have a bigger impact, she said, especially for black women like her. Statistics show they hold a larger share of student debt than white graduates because they lack family wealth to help fund their education.

“If he had cleared my debt, I would take out my Mirena tomorrow,” she said, referring to her contraceptive device.

Dallas attorney Adwoa Asante borrowed $147,000 in federal loans to attend law school at Emory University. She graduated in 2015 and has since repaid around $15,000. With interest, she still owes $162,000 – a debt that she says has limited her career options.

Asante, who is black, said a $10,000 pardon is “better than nothing,” but a full pardon would go much further to improve the wealth gap between black and white Americans.

“If the Biden administration or any other government administration is concerned about fairness, it just doesn’t make sense to force people who can’t afford it to withdraw money so they can go to school,” she said.

While $10,000 or even $20,000 may not seem like enough for many debt-ridden Americans, it’s too much for some student borrowers who see the plan as an unnecessary burden on taxpayers.

“It took both my parents years to pay off their college debt, and now they’re being told that if they had waited a bit it would have just gone away,” said Jackson Hoppe, 19, a college student. GeorgeWashington.

Hoppe has his own federal student loans and expects to owe about $18,000 by the time he graduates. But he does not want forgiveness.

A bailout “places an additional burden on Americans, many of whom haven’t even gone to college,” Hoppe said. “Don’t take on debt you can’t repay, and don’t ask others to pay your own debts.”

Borrowing money has been the only way for many Americans to get to college or university, steps seen as necessary to join and stay in the middle class or progress beyond it.

For Catari Giglio, financing college and joining the middle class is more difficult than for most Americans. Giglio’s parents are from Chile and the family moved to Boston from Italy when she was 13.

Giglio, 20, is in the country without legal permission and does not qualify for federal loans because she does not have a Social Security number. She will not receive any benefits from Biden’s debt cancellation plan.

Giglio, who plans to borrow a total of $150,000 in private loans by the end of his four years of studying graphic design at Suffolk University, is already paying nearly $400 a month to repay the 12% interest on the money she borrowed to finance her first two years of school.

“It’s frustrating. It’s 10 times harder for me to go to school, to earn money,” she said. “There is no help for us.”

Giglio has applied for lawful permanent residence in the United States and hopes to have more options for paying for her education once she receives a green card.

She regrets the obligations she has assumed and wonders about the American education system that allowed her to accumulate a mountain of debt.

“Putting such financial responsibility on an 18-year-old fresh out of high school is not a responsible thing to do,” she said. “Society and schools don’t prepare us to make these kinds of financial decisions.”

The decision brought joy to the many people whose entire debt is forgiven.

Emily Taylor, a single mother of three in Louisiana, owes $12,000 in student loans even though she never finished school. As a Pell Grant recipient, she expects everything to be eliminated.

Taylor, who works in customer service, said the cancellation would allow her to start saving for her children’s education, ages 14, 12 and 10.

“Knowing that I can help my kids do things differently and help fund their education in a way that my parents couldn’t help fund mine is so important,” she said. .


Associated Press writers Claire Savage in Chicago, Heather Hollingsworth in Mission, Kansas, and Arleigh Rodgers in Indianapolis contributed to this report. Savage and Rodgers are members of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues.


The Associated Press education team receives support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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