‘This is going to change everything for me’: Americans react to Biden’s plan to forgive $20,000 in student loan debt




CNN

Americans across the country are sharing their mixed reactions to President Joe Biden’s decision to forgive millions of borrowers up to $20,000 in student loan debt.

Biden announced in August that borrowers who have loans with the Department of Education and earn less than $125,000 annually could receive up to $20,000 in student loan forgiveness if they received Pell Grants, which are awarded to students from low- and moderate-income families. People who earn less than $125,000 a year but have not received Pell grants can receive up to $10,000 in loan forgiveness.

Student debt relief is being tied to a plan to lift the freeze on federal student loan payments starting in January 2023.

On Friday, the Biden administration finally opened up the application process in beta, officials told CNN, allowing applicants to start signing up before the website formally launches later this month.

Biden said the administration’s “targeted actions are for families who need it most: working and middle-class people making less than $125,000 a year have been hit especially hard during the pandemic.” He pointed out that “about 90% of the beneficiaries earn less than $75,000”.

But the nation is divided over Biden’s decision, with social media channels flooded with praise or criticism. Many see the executive order as a game-changer for millions of Americans who are drowning in debt, while others say it’s unfair to those who made sacrifices and worked hard to pay off their college debt.

Here’s what some Americans are saying about Biden’s plan.

Pamela Bone is a 59-year-old resident of Atlanta, Georgia. Her youngest daughter has cerebral palsy, which prompted her to become a teacher for middle school students with moderate intellectual disabilities.

Bone said she and her family moved from Seattle after her daughter was born and briefly stayed home to be there through various surgeries and doctor’s appointments. She also volunteered at her daughter’s school and said she was “amazed by the time, care, attention and love from her teachers,” which prompted her to return to school to earn her master’s degree and her specialist degree.

“I wanted to give back to the students what my daughter received from such loving people and I knew that would be my true calling in life,” Bone said. “Needless to say, the cost of getting the necessary credentials was a big cost, but it was also necessary because I was now divorced and had to take care of myself and my daughter.”

Although teachers are underpaid, Bone said his profession is “near and dear” to his heart.

“Cancelling this debt means I can put more aside for my daughter’s future, to ensure a comfortable and meaningful life for both of us and something I’m truly grateful for,” she said.

Jo Ann Hardy, 66, of Detroit, Michigan, says her family is middle-class African-American. She and her husband, Jerry, paid for their daughter to get a master’s degree in 2004. All three made sacrifices and worked hard to pay for their daughter to go to college with the help of some academic scholarships, she says.

“We got it! No loan! While we didn’t need loan assistance, we’re glad President Biden announced a plan to help provide some relief to students who had to take out loans,” Hardy said. “We’re smart and compassionate enough to know that not all students and families can make it through without help. !”

The Hardys are fully on board with their efforts to ease student loan debt for borrowers. Over the years, they said they have met “students and families who have given their all and continue to make important contributions as professionals in our communities and in the United States.”

“For those who can do it without student loans – BRAVO! For those who needed help with the loan – BRAVO!” said Hardy.

Bryan Lonsberry, 34, lives in Scottsburg, Indiana.

Bryan Lonsberry

Lonsberry says he and his wife held jobs during college and made sacrifices to pay off loans after college.

“Now this forgiveness loan is a slap in the face for us. We have done the right thing and fulfilled the duty we signed up for,” he said. “This policy, no matter which side of the aisle you are on, sends the wrong message. This time it’s 10k but next time people always want more. It’s not sustainable.”

Lonsberry says she supports getting a higher education, but believes that each person is responsible for their own payments.

“In the end, it seems that no one wants to take responsibility for their actions. People need to step up and take care of themselves and their own decisions, but it seems like now everyone just wants a hand out,” he said.

Elijah Watkins, 28, is from Atlanta, Georgia.

Elijah Wakins

Watkins says Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan means he can move out of his mom’s house. Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Watkins says she’s been living in a challenging environment that has forced her to choose between paying rent or paying off student loans. He chose the latter.

“This means that in adulthood I can start taking bigger steps towards bigger purchases, such as buying my first home, getting a new car or investing in my business,” Watkins said.

“Outside of Obamacare, this is the first time a president has directly affected my day-to-day decision-making that I’m proud to be a citizen of the United States of America,” he said.

Brian Garten is a 30-year-old resident of Jacksonville, Florida.

Brian Garten

Garten was a recipient of Pell Grants, as well as several small grants, and worked various jobs throughout college. In addition to federal student loans, she had to take out $26,000 in student loans, she says, and enrolled in an income-based repayment plan without missing a payment for seven years.

Garten still has $21,000 to pay off the loan, which he says would take at least 20 years.

“It has prevented me from significant life milestones so far,” he said. “I couldn’t even think of saving money for a house, and there’s no way to start a family.”

Garten says her student loans affect every aspect of her life and that Biden’s forgiveness plan “will change everything for me.”

He hopes to receive the full $20,000 forgiven and pay off the remaining balance to become completely college loan debt free.

“I plan to buy a new car, with warranties, and guaranteed reliability for the foreseeable future,” he said. “It will be the biggest purchase I’ve ever made and something I consider an important investment for my future. This student loan forgiveness gives me hope to move forward in a place I didn’t have before in my life.”

John Visser, 56, lives in Dallas, Texas.

John Visser

Visser, who describes himself as a progressive Democrat, opposes Biden’s decision. He said that he does not agree with “handouts for people with economic difficulties”.

“If they couldn’t pay, why did they borrow in the first place?” he said

Visser said her spouse passed away 12 years ago, leaving her with a single income and bills she couldn’t pay.

“I made tough choices, set a strict budget and paid off the debt as quickly as possible. Why shouldn’t it be the same for student loan borrowers? If they go to college, they should be able to manage their finances,” he said.

Visser joined the United States Army in the late 1980s to earn the Army College Fund, an enlistment incentive option, and GI Bill benefits, which help qualify veterans with school or training costs. The benefits he earned helped pay for his college while working full-time, Visser says.

“It seems pretty inappropriate to now be using a portion of my taxes to pay those who took an easier path to their degrees without contributing back to society,” he said.

Rachel Clark, 31, lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Clark was the first person in his family to earn a four-year degree from a university. He grew up in and out of poverty, and the idea of ​​going to college was terrifying. Her mother was not told about the financial aid process and the idea of ​​her oldest daughter leaving home “terrified her,” Clark said.

Clark filled out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) only to find out she expected zero family contribution, she said.

In her first year of college, Clark took out subsidized and unsubsidized loans to pay for her tuition and the rest of her college fees, such as books, supplies, and housing expenses. He worked a full-time job to support himself in his college career, but sometimes that made his grades suffer. Clark says it was a miracle she was able to graduate with a 3.4 GPA.

“I entered the field of early childhood education almost immediately and found that my hopeful intentions for my future career were as dismal as my ideas for college,” she said.

Clark has earned about $20 an hour as an educator for nearly a decade and has been paying off her loans in payments of less than $100 as part of an income-based payment plan.

“Once, I did the math; it’s very likely that I would DIE before paying off my student loans. With the burden of student loans off my back, I can finally breathe,” she said.

Clark added that he “feels so free knowing that student debt is one less weight that I’ll have to keep drowning under.”