SU Student Opinions on Biden’s Student Debt Cancellation
College students at Southwestern University have varied responses to the ramifications that the recent Biden administration announcement could have on their college loans. On August 24th, 2022 the Biden administration announced a plan to provide relief for student loans. The aforementioned plan, or at least Part Two, would mean that individuals earning less than $125,000, or families earning less than $250,000 per year would be eligible for up to $10,000 in debt cancellation, with an increase for Pell Grant recipients being eligible for up to $20,000. This was accomplished through Biden’s invocation of the 2003 HEROES Act, which in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, was passed by Congress to allow for the Secretary of Education to make a change in any provision of the law relating to student aid programs. The Justice Department laid out the legal justification for the student debt cancellation via executive action as primarily rooted in financial hardship ensuing from the COVID-19 pandemic. Susan Rice, the domestic policy advisor for the Biden administration, later clarified that debt relief would only apply to loans obtained prior to June 30th, 2022. This would mean that any loans taken after June 30th, 2022 would not be covered by this plan, which impacted Southwestern students’ opinions.
Twenty-one Republican Governors, including Texas Governor Abbott, have ramped up criticism of Biden’s plan by signing on to a joint letter against this usage of executive power to cancel student debt via taxes. This opposition stems from the belief that the cancellation plan would increase the tax burden on low-income Americans to subsidize already elite and affluent collegiate institutions. Senator Ted Cruz is currently pursuing ways to block the policy. He views it as a way to drive up Democrat voter turnout ahead of November. Cruz stated, “burdening hard-working Americans with debts they didn’t take on themselves”. The National Taxpayers Union found that the average burden per U.S. taxpayer for the new federal student debt cancellation will be $2,503.22. The Competitive Enterprise Institute reported that this policy may potentially raise tuition costs.
I went through campus to ask students about their overall impression of Biden’s plan and how the policy may impact them. I asked what they thought about the potential for an increase in tax burden, and how they viewed the use of executive power on this matter as opposed to legislative. The majority of students interviewed didn’t see the debt forgiveness policy as having as big of an impact on them individually due to not taking out loans prior to June 30th, 2022, or due to not having any student loans.
Kristian Duddridge, a Southwestern first-year, wishes that the plan lasts until he gets out of college to avoid student debt. Duddridge felt that the policy’s benefits would outweigh any drawbacks, including the potential for an increased tax burden as they don’t pay taxes.
Bryan Guzman-Sanchez had briefly been introduced to the Biden plan about student debt cancellation from his professors. He heard from his teachers that the plan would be good since they have a lot of debt, and he expressed that their perspective was the primary interaction he had prior with Biden’s plan. For him, the plan wouldn’t have any impact since he didn’t take loans before June 30th, but now he wishes he did. Guzman-Sanchez’s opinion contrasted his initial thoughts on the issue when it pertained to the potential burden on taxpayers and Biden’s use of executive authority. He doesn’t think it is fair for low-income Americans who couldn’t afford to go to college to face the increased burden. Bryan also expressed that Congress should have decided and that such a move by Biden was appeasing those with debt.
Nina Woodward felt differently on the issue, and while she didn’t know every detail of Biden’s plan she felt, “reducing student debt is a positive.” While the policy doesn’t impact her specifically, she believes that there is a “vested interest in the debt of other students” at Southwestern University as this may impact her own financial situation through the potential for a change in tuition rates. The potential for increased tax burden as a result of the plan more so pertained to the government providing a public good to the American people since, “education is a human right.” Woodward believed that, “if it went through Congress, it could have died on the floor,” an assumption growing among many Americans as many of Biden’s policies have previously been stalled in Congress.
Marios Petropolous had a contrary opinion on the issue, believing that Biden’s plan seems decent, but that it could burden low-income families through taxes, similar to what Republican Governors had asserted in their letter. When factoring in the potential for an increase in tax burden, he believes that the policy may not be fair since not all taxpayers are receiving the benefits, which could have helped them get an education. In relation to the dynamic between President Biden and Congress, Petropolous feels that his student debt cancellation plan should have instead, “gone to Congress for more feedback.”
Ashlynn Delias was directly impacted by the plan due to having taken out loans that fall under Biden’s plan. She felt that this policy was a great idea as it would hopefully give her loan forgiveness. When factoring in the potential for tax burden upon those who avoided college due to cost, Delias expressed that many students are already paying taxes and that government loan forgiveness would help to make higher education more affordable. Due to the struggling financial situations of many college students, she thought Biden was correct in his decision to take direct executive action to accomplish this policy.
While not all students shared the same opinion on the issue, there was not as much controversy on this economic policy issue as opposed to social issues such as abortion or LGBTQ rights which bring more tension. This issue will continue to resonate throughout the public discourse leading up to the midterm elections in November, including from students throughout Southwestern’s campus. Student opinions matter at this time, not only because of the ability for students to vote, but also because of how government policies may directly impact their lives.
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