Student debt crisis will get worse without a free community college
- Biden’s $ 1.75 trillion social spending framework slashed free community college and slashed the higher education budget.
- Representative Andy Levin said the student debt crisis would be “exacerbated” without the absence of a free community college.
- He said canceling student debt will solve the current crisis, while free education will prevent it from happening again.
The student debt crisis stands at $ 1.7 trillion, and President Joe Biden’s $ 1.75 trillion social spending framework is doing next to nothing to help the 45 million Americans in debt.
On Thursday, Biden unveiled a framework for the Democrats’ reconciliation bill after months of negotiations. While early childhood education and child care received a $ 400 billion investment, higher education received just $ 40 billion to increase Pell scholarships and provide support to colleges and historically black universities (HBCU) and minority aid institutions (MSI). The tuition-free community college has been removed from the framework.
Biden first suggested at a CNN town hall last week that two years of community college tuition-free probably wouldn’t do the trick, thanks to opposition from centrist Democratic Senator Joe Manchin. He did, however, promise that he would do so during his presidency, which he campaigned on.
But many students across the country cannot afford to wait. Tuition fees continue to rise, leading people to take out student loans to finance their education, which can lead to lifelong student debt. Robert Pemberton, a 64-year-old man with $ 265,000 in student debt, previously told Insider he sees himself dying on the loans.
“This is a never-ending cycle where the loan can never be repaid unless I have a windfall and pay it all or die and it goes,” he said. declared.
Michigan Representative Andy Levin, the original sponsor of the free community college proposal, told Insider that the student debt crisis would be “absolutely exacerbated” if the free community college was cut.
“It’s a shame,” Levin said. “We’re going to fight until the final whistle to get it in this package, but if it’s not, we’re going to fight to pass it later as soon as we can. Because it will help. a lot to relieve the students of this burden, ”he added.
Biden’s stimulus bill in March also didn’t include student debt reduction measures. His administration took steps to write off student debt for targeted groups of borrowers and began reforming delinquent loan cancellation programs. It has also extended the pandemic pause on student loan payments, but lawmakers and advocates say that is not enough to deal with the growing crisis.
The Magic Duo: Free Education and Student Debt Cancellation
Setting up a free community college now will not help people who have already graduated and $ 30,000 on average in student debt. This is why Levin believes that at least $ 50,000 of student debt cancellation per borrower and free higher education is needed to help prospective students, current students, and those who have graduated.
“They both solve the current problem and try to prevent it from becoming such a problem in the future,” Levin said.
Biden asked the Education Department nearly seven months ago to prepare a note on his legal authority to write off at least $ 50,000 in student debt per borrower. But this note has not been published. Given that borrowers will have to resume debt payments in February after a pandemic hiatus of nearly two years, a group of lawmakers, led by Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar, called on the department to release the results of the reviews by now. October 22.
The department missed that deadline, and Omar told Insider the response was long overdue.
“Millions of borrowers across the country are desperate for student debt relief,” Omar said. “We know the president can do it with the stroke of a pen.”
Biden never promised to write off $ 50,000 in student debt, despite the escalating pressure, but he campaigned for a cancellation of $ 10,000. This would wipe out the student debt of 15 million borrowers altogether, while Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren’s $ 50,000 cancellation proposal would help double that number of debtors.
“Canceling $ 50,000 in student debt would completely wipe out student loans for 84% of borrowers, including over 3 million borrowers who have been paying off their loans for more than 20 years,” Warren told Insider.
But it doesn’t look like blanket student debt cancellation or free higher education is coming anytime soon. The Education Department is reportedly preparing a “safety net” to make it easier to repay borrowers, and Biden has never given a timeline for when or how he will work to pass a free community college during his tenure.
Levin said, however, that two years of free education is essential to preventing student debt in the future.
“The free community college will increase the demand for higher education in general,” Levin said. “This argues for free higher education for all, which in the long run, I think, is the direction in which we need to go.”