Biden’s student debt forgiveness plan brings relief to middle-class  

Eric Haynes | Google

Eric Haynes

Eric Haynes | Google

Karina Ordonez

On Aug. 24, President Joe Biden announced a plan to forgive up to $20,000 of student loan debt for Pell Grant recipients, and $10,000 for other qualifying borrowers.

In addition, Biden extended the federal student loan payment pause until Dec. 31.

According to NPR, 43 million people will benefit from this decision, while another 20 million will have their debts completely canceled.

There’s always been a lingering stigma associated with student loan debt, causing many to look at borrowers as financially reckless.

However, the future of the middle class depends on student loan forgiveness.

Many Americans struggling to repay federal student loans are also grappling with rising housing, childcare, elder care and health care costs.

It seems the cost of education, a necessary precursor to upward mobility, is actually the burden holding back entire families from ascending the social ladder.

Thus, canceling student loan debt should be the first step of a long-term effort to restore equity to the middle class.

To understand this, it is very important to also understand the history of student debt, including why it exists.

College used to be effectively free or of minimal cost until the Nixon administration, which determined that college-age students would soon become the leading opposition of Nixon’s conservative agenda.

Nixon wanted to defund public colleges to make future students take on debt, thus making political activism a riskier endeavor.

A direct quote from the Powell memo in the 1970s, written by a key Reagan advisor states that free college, “produces an educated proletariat. That’s dynamite!… We have to be selective on who we allow to go through higher education.”

In other words, students who graduated with huge amounts of debt would be less likely to have the resources, time and status to fight against capitalistic and corporate interests.

People who oppose Biden’s plan claim that the policy isn’t fair because it doesn’t help anyone who already paid off their student loans.

“Not every program has to be for everybody…We can do good things and reject the scarcity mindset that says doing something good for someone else comes at the cost of something for ourselves,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said in an Instagram story post.

Although this plan is a huge step in the right direction, there is still a lot more work to be done.

African American students who take out loans have nearly twice as much student debt after four years of college than their white peers, who take out $28,000, according to congresswoman Cori Bush.

Student debt cancellation is a racial and economic justice issue. In fact, canceling $50,000 of student debt from students of color would immediately increase the wealth of Black people by 40%.

There are also plenty of non-wealthy Americans, regardless of race, who hold far more debt than Biden would be able to relieve through this new policy. These are burdens that can trail people for the rest of their lives.

Additionally, student loans have been paused since 2020 which hasn’t contributed to an economic collapse.

However, the cost of living has been steadily increasing while wages stagnate.

It’s one thing to simply delay payments, and another to cancel a larger amount of student debt that’s been a long-term detriment to certain demographics.

The Latino community, for instance, would benefit tremendously from debt forgiveness. Almost half of all Latino student debt is to be forgiven under Biden.

Although Biden didn’t technically deliver on his original campaign promise in its entirety, no other American president has ever attempted to cancel student debt.

No other president attempted to ease significant amounts of money owed to lenders.

A president hasn’t tried to deliver such tangible benefits since the formation of the Affordable Care Act.

A generation of working-class individuals can now finally have some relief and start anew.

Some may finally be able to afford down-payments on homes, while others might finally start to build up a nest-egg for retirement. This decision shouldn’t simply be overlooked.