Who Gets Student Loan Forgiveness? Relief causes joy, anxiety – daily local newspaper


For Nick Marcillo, paying off $10,000 in student loans could mean finally moving out of his parents’ house.

Marcil, 24, attended a Pennsylvania state college, received scholarships and worked while earning an education degree, but still owed $18,000 before the Biden administration’s decision Wednesday to cancel some of his student loans.

“I feel like if I didn’t have that burden, I would sooner try to move out — try to have, you know, my own place,” said Marcil, who lives in Wayne.

For borrowers like Marcil — among the millions whose debt will be wiped out — the decision means new freedom to move, raise a family or stay in low-paying but fulfilling jobs. But for many others, the long-awaited plan brings bitterness and disappointment.

Many student borrowers feel left out, perhaps because they don’t qualify for federal loans and are forced to rely on private loans that won’t be forgiven. Other Americans resent the break that current debtors will get because they’ve already paid off their debts, worked to avoid college loans, or oppose the move on philosophical grounds.

Then there are systemic effects. Some inflation watchers worry that borrowers’ new purchasing power will further push up prices. Loan forgiveness would cost the government more than $300 billion, according to an analysis by Penn Wharton’s Budget Model. And the relief has no effect on the rising cost of college.

The frustration may be greatest 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 out of place with the exorbitant costs of American higher education. The average cost of attending a public college last year was more than $10,000, while the average private college cost $37,000 a year.

Christian Smith, 32, will owe more than $60,000 when she graduates with her bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado at Denver next year. This is roughly equal to her family’s annual income. “It’s mind-blowing,” she said.

Smith, who works full-time and works with students at Young Invincibles, a nonprofit that advocates for college students and youth, estimates that she and her partner will pay $900 a month in student loan service after she graduates training.

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

Having a baby also feels out of reach. Smith plans to delay motherhood until she pays off her school debt.

“I grew up in poverty and I don’t want that for my child,” she said. “I don’t mean to say that you can’t go on this field trip or that you have to wear handmade clothes that the other kids make fun of.”

If President Joe Biden decided to ease more student debt, it would have a bigger impact, she said, especially for black women like her. Statistics show that they have a higher proportion of student debt than white graduates because they do not have the family wealth to finance their education.

“If he wiped out my debt, I’d take out my Mirena tomorrow,” she said, referring to her contraceptive.

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

Asante, who is black, said the $10,000 pardon was “better than nothing,” but a full pardon would go a long way toward reducing the wealth gap between black and white Americans.

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

While $10,000 or even $20,000 doesn’t seem like enough for many Americans with debt, it’s too much for some student borrowers, who see the scheme as an unnecessary burden on taxpayers.

“Both of my parents took years to pay off their college debt, and now they’re being told that if they waited a little longer, it would just be gone,” said 19-year-old George Washington University student Jackson Hoppe.

Hoppe has his own federal student loans and expects to owe about $18,000 by the time he graduates. But he doesn’t want an apology.

According to Hoppe, the bailout “places an additional burden on Americans, many of whom haven’t even attended college.” “Don’t take on debt you can’t repay, and don’t ask other people to pay your debts.”

Borrowing money was the only way for many Americans to attend college or graduate school, steps considered necessary to join and stay in, or move beyond, the middle class.

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

Giglio, 20, is in the country without legal authorization and is ineligible for federal loans because she does not have a Social Security number. She won’t get any benefit from Biden’s debt recovery plan.

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

“It’s disappointing. 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 legal permanent residency in the US and hopes to get a green card to pay for school.

She feels some regret about the commitments she made and questions the American education system that allowed her to accumulate a mountain of debt.

“Putting that much 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 many who were forgiven their entire debt.

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

Taylor, who works in customer service, said the cancellation would allow her to start saving for the education of her children, who are 14, 12 and 10 years old.

“Knowing that I’ll be able to help my kids do it differently and help fund their education in a way that my parents weren’t able to help fund mine is a big deal,” she said.


Associated Press writers Claire Savage in Chicago, Heather Hollingsworth in Mission, Kansas, and Arlie Rogers in Indianapolis contributed to this report. Savage and Rogers are members of the Associated Press/Reporting Corps for the US Government News Initiative. Reporting for America is a nonprofit national outreach program that places journalists in local newsrooms to cover underreported issues.


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

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