The GOP has begun waging war against low-income college graduates.
Since President Joe Biden announced his plan for broad student debt relief in August, GOP legislators around the country have begun to do everything in their power to demonize those that will benefit.
Senators like Ted Cruz, R-Texas, are spinning a narrative that paints them as “slacker barista[s] who wasted seven years in college studying completely useless things.” His comments minimize the monumental effort and dedication it takes for any student, especially low-income students, to achieve college education. Others like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia, claim that all of these students “piled up massive debt going to some Ivy League school,” and forgiveness punishes “hardworking people” that can’t possibly have college degrees.
Roy Blunt, R-Michigan, has even argued on record that if students simply “attend affordable school” or work “harder part-time,” they can altogether avoid loans.
All these assertions are flagrantly incorrect.
A whopping 45 million Americans are estimated to benefit directly from Biden’s debt forgiveness. It would be impossible to lump every one of these borrowers into a single category like these legislators are attempting.
However, there is one thing we can assume these borrowers do have in common. Each of them was the victim of a predatory and broken lending system designed to saddle them with debt for the rest of their lives.
The Soaring Costs of College Education
The average cost of attending a public 4-year-university has risen 102% over the last decade. During the 2020-2021 school year, these types of universities charged $22,000 annually. In comparison, a private four-year university costs nearly double, coming in at almost $51,000. For a bachelor’s degree, the average student must pay $88,000.
With the astronomical costs, it is unsurprising that 62% of 2019 grads acquired student loan debt before graduation. On average, each student ended up owing a whopping $28,950 for their Bachelor’s degree. Cumulatively, Americans have $1.6 trillion and rising in outstanding student loan debt. Student loans are the largest and fastest growing form of debt in the United States.
Countless graduates have spoken out about being crushed under the weight of their student debt. Before Biden proposed broad debt forgiveness, the average monthly payment for Americans with student loans was $300.
If borrowers could not afford such a hefty monthly payment, their only option was to enroll in critically flawed income-driven repayment plans. Often, payments on these plans only cover the monthly interest accured. So each month, balances ballooned while borrowers kept sending checks to their loan servicers and continued pushing off major life milestones¹.
Today, nearly 5 million Americans, with balances totaling over $110 billion, have student loans in default. Once borrowers default, the Federal Government can garnish their wages, withhold their social security payments, keep any tax refunds, and negatively impact their credit scores². Unlike other types of loans, Americans with student debt can not discharge it during bankruptcy proceedings.
And the student loan crisis has existed for so long that now approximately 9 million Americans over 50 still carry some form of student loan debt. And student debt for this age group is growing faster than among their younger counterparts. As of 2019, people aged 60+ owed $86 million in student loan debt, often in parent loans for their children.
Recent research states that after age 65, almost 40% of borrowers default on student loan debt. We will only see this trend continue rising if we do nothing to curb the massive amount of student debt weighing down middle and low-income Americans.
Student Debt Relief Will Help Millions
Based on the statistics, it’s not hard to believe that millions of Americans will have their lives changed by broad student loan forgiveness. When Biden’s plan was announced to the public, struggling college grads across the country took to social media to share their joy.
Finally, after years of waiting, grads say they can finally buy their first homes, get married, and even begin to start families.
This reduction in their debt does not fix everything with the broken collegiate system. But the relief will give single Americans and families the breathing room they need to rebuild their finances after being battered by the COVID-19 pandemic and current record-high inflation rates.
But, the GOP can not bear to see these students lifted from beneath the weight of student debt. If republican legislators have their way, these struggling Americans’ hopes and dreams for the future will come crashing down.
Just this week, 6 GOP-controlled states — Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and South Carolina — sued the federal government. Their lawsuit alleged that broad loan forgiveness is causing a “number of ongoing financial harms” to student loan servicers, the companies that make money from keeping these students in debt.
In direct response to this lawsuit, the U.S. Department of Education has had to clarify qualifications for the debt relief program to exclude any student with federal loans owned by private lenders. This move robs over 700,0000 borrowers of the relief that they desperately need.
This November, each one of us must visit our local polling place and cast our ballot. If GOP legislators take control of the house or senate, republicans will quickly strike down Biden’s debt forgiveness. And millions of Americans will have hope ripped from them and be forced back into crushing student loan debt.
- MarketWatch – “I’m 65 and can’t retire because I have $80K in student loans. How can I get out of this debt faster?”
- Department of Education – “Student Loan Delinquency”