We are now two months into Joe Biden’s presidency and his campaign promise of student loan debt relief is at the forefront of many college students’ and graduates’ minds this spring.
President Biden presented himself as the candidate who believed in science, advocating for COVID-19 to be taken seriously, for action to be taken to control its spread and to limit the economic damage it has caused in the United States.
The Biden campaign also advocated for college student debt relief, which became a political rallying cry for younger, often first-time voters. He promised $10,000 in government student loan forgiveness while campaigning in 2020.
The president has received pressure early on from Democratic members of the Senate, such as Elizabeth Warren and Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, on the topic.
The question being asked among college students revolves around the amount of loan forgiveness that will be put forward by the President. More liberal Democrats in Congress are pushing for $50,000 in loan forgiveness, others are suggesting the originally-promised $10,000, while Republicans have been uninterested in offering any loan support for months.
Through the power of executive orders, President Biden can waive student debt without Congressional approval. “You don’t need Congress,” said Senator Chuck Schumer. “All you need is the flick of a pen.” It seems, however, that Biden is not ready, or maybe not willing, to flick his pen for everybody he promised relief to.
This pandemic has been detrimental to many families and small businesses, but also to many college students. Unemployment, compounded with the lack of quality education after courses moved online, all while colleges and universities in the U.S. are still charging full price tuition, has created an expensive and unfair situation for students.
“(Student debt forgiveness) would make a big difference in my living situation,” said Max Waldman, a junior majoring in multimedia journalism. “After college, I hope to move to a new area of the country eventually, so alleviating that debt would greatly help me out in that aspect.”
Waldman had to take out loans to help pay for his tuition, so he understands how debt can be extremely crushing for many young adults.
“I think that there should be large-scale loan forgiveness so that young Americans are actually able to enter the workplace without having to drown in debt first,” Waldman said. “Especially after how the pandemic has affected the economy.”
Almost 70% of students in the U.S. take out student loans. In 2019, the average debt for a college graduate was $29,900. Currently 44.7 million Americans owe a collective $1.7 trillion dollars. Researchers say that this debt level is resulting in many people delaying buying homes, having children or changing jobs. This is then compounded with the stress of having to worry about finances, which means people spend less money, ultimately creating a strain on the economy.
Relieving student debt will bolster the economy and save students and their families money, but it would also help Biden to tackle another one of his huge campaign promises: helping out the Black community.
2020 was a historic year as social justice movements became an important discussion in households across the United States.
Biden made a determined effort to establish himself as the candidate who had a plan for police reform and dealing with institutionalized racism. Debt forgiveness is an easy way for Biden to show he meant what he said on the campaign trail. However, merely squashing $10,000 of student debt will not suffice.
The National Center for Education Statistics found that Black college graduates owe on average $25,000 more in student loan debt than white college graduates. Racial inequality is a major issue in our country, and in order to make significant changes and right our institutional wrongs, student debt relief is a prerequisite.
Voter turnout in the 2020 election was the largest of any election in the history of the United States because of new voters. It is estimated that roughly 55% of eligible youth voters turned out to vote in 2020, with an almost 2-1 ratio in favor of Biden. The Black youth vote was even more staggering: roughly 87% of young Black Americans voted for the former Vice President.
Joe Biden made numerous campaign promises that he now has 4 years to build upon, and his early achievements such as re-joining the Paris Climate Agreement and ending the ban on majority-Muslim countries to enter the U.S. have given me hope for the future of his term.
However, in order to retain these new young voters, trust must be established. In other words, campaign promises have to be fulfilled. Midterm elections are not that far away and if Democrats want to see the youth turn out as they did in 2020, this is not the time for Congress to be impotent.
Despite the fact that the average age of a member of Congress is about 57 years old, and that both of the presidential candidates this past year were almost 80 years old, young people are the future. It’s time for our new president to make an investment in that future and relieve some of this overwhelming debt.