For years parents, teachers, and mentors all had a simple formula for success – go to college. However, while many college graduates leave with better job prospects and a diploma, often these young adults also leave with large amounts of debt. According to Forbes, by February of this year, the collective student debt in American topped $1.7 trillion spread over about 45 million people. Now President Joe Biden is considering how to tackle this challenge, and as students burdened by this debt enter an uncertain economy, many questions remain.
In the first 100 days of his administration, Biden has taken some steps to lessen the amount of debt for certain borrowers. For example, Biden has already cancelled debt for 72,000 victims of fraud and 41,000 debt holders with disabilities, according to Business Insider. Despite these progressive actions, many activist groups and Democratic politicians are urging the Biden administration to do more to tackle student debt.
In 2020, then-candidate Biden promised to cancel $10,000 in student debt for each American borrower. He planned to forgive these debts using his authority from the Higher Education Act of 1965, which many believe gives the President the authority to cancel student debt. Biden is said to have directed his Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona to assess the legal issues surrounding student debt cancellation.
Despite these recent moves, many progressives are pushing Biden to cancel $50,000 of student debt for all American borrowers. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York is part of the group pushing for the larger debt cancellation saying, “It will do so much good for America.” The debate inside the Democratic Party represents one of the first big disagreements of Biden’s Presidency. Advocates for cancelling larger sums of debt say it would help stimulate the economy and decrease the racial wealth gap, while Biden and his allies argue forgiving those large sums of debt for all Americans would benefit some who are wealthier and chose to attend private institutions.
As the debate rages in Washington, the people affected weigh their options. Senior Joselen Lopez cites student loan debt as a huge factor in her college decision, “Financial Aid is always my first consideration. I hope that the Biden Administration takes action and gives more thought to forgiving outstanding loans and decreasing future student debt,” she says. Lopez will attend IU Bloomington in the fall.
As pressure mounts from activists, students, and politicians, Biden will face the same question about student debt that has defined his presidency so far – just how big will Biden go?