- Biden has pledged to write off $ 10,000 in student loan debt, but that’s not enough.
- After I graduated from college, I had to pay the legal fees for my divorce, which caused me to default on my loans.
- I went to college to get a better paying job, but now the interest on my loans is burying me. I want a better future for my children.
- Emily Withnall is a freelance writer and a member of Community Change. She lives in Missoula, Montana.
- This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
Money to move was at the top of my oldest Christmas list this year. Alex is a high school student and should apply to college. But due to my own crippling student loan debt, my children’s choices are limited. For now, Alex chooses not to attend college for the foreseeable future. This choice hurts.
I don’t have the resources to give Alex money to move. Instead, on Christmas morning, I watched in mortification as my children unwrapped identical gifts, their faces shining with joy. They were delighted to receive new sheets.
My children have had the same old sheets covered with pastel butterflies for over twelve years. As a single parent, paying my bills and avoiding credit card debt while raising two children is a relentless act. Paying for dancing or Taekwondo means that I don’t replace our towels and sheets very often. We eat a lot of beans and rice. University accounts and retirement funds are fancy.
Like many other Americans, I’m what you might call a permalancer: I juggle part-time jobs and short-term contracts to keep myself afloat. In 2018, I made a total of $ 18,811 for the year. In 2019, I managed to earn $ 22,908. My main strategy is to do without it, but this approach cannot solve my student loan debt. Paying back the $ 81,000 I owe seems quite impossible to me.
Forgiving just $ 10,000 is not enough
As a senator in 2005, President Joe Biden backed a bill that increased the amount of loans students could borrow while simultaneously making it almost impossible for people with huge student loan debt to file for bankruptcy. This bill has helped loan companies, but has contributed to what has been a growing student loan crisis over the past 15 years. Senator Elizabeth Warren, who opposed the bill in 2005, is once again pushing Biden to overturn the legislation. So far, Biden has pledged to forgo everyone’s $ 10,000 student loans.
In early February, Senator Warren, Senator Chuck Schumer and Representative Ayanna Pressly reintroduced a student loan forgiveness resolution which calls on Biden to forgive $ 50,000 for every federal student loan borrower through executive action. In a town hall meeting Tuesday night, however, President Biden asserted he lacked authority forgive more than $ 10,000 per borrower – Senators and officials behind the proposed resolution argue Biden has the power.
As a borrower, I call on President Biden and Congress to do more. The $ 10,000 cancellation of my student debt does not even cover the interest I have accrued. And while forgiving $ 50,000 would be a big step in the right direction, many borrowers would still struggle under the weight of their remaining balances.
I was buried in legal fees before I could repay my loans
I graduated from a small college in New Mexico in 2007 with a total of $ 24,950 in student loan debt. The average student loan debt for an undergraduate degree in the United States is $ 25,921. So I was happy to have kept him below par, while raising two children under the age of four. I divorced six months after graduating, but quickly found a stable job earning $ 26,000 a year.
When my grace period ended and I started making small payments for my student loans, my abusive ex-husband started suing me. His court records were aggressive and frequent – about every four months, for five years. I quickly realized that I would need a lawyer to face the onslaught of litigation.
Retaining a lawyer is expensive, but with a tight budget I have managed to pay off over $ 60,000 in legal debt. However, there was nothing left for student loans, and I started to stop paying them. A loan company even sued me. They stipulated that I either go up against them in court or add thousands of dollars to what I already owed. I was not up to par with a student loan company so I took that last option and added more debt to my debt.
In the 1960s the tuition fees were low enough that a student could work part time and easily pay them. With stagnant wages, fewer salaried jobs and a skyrocketing cost of living, this is no longer true. Student loans are a promise they can no longer keep: if we invest in our future, we will reap the rewards. But that future no longer exists. Those of us who struggle to pay off our loans through thick and thin are often pulled down when other financial difficulties arise. For me it was a vexatious dispute, but for others it was medical emergencies or car trouble.
When I looked for a better paying job, every job in my field required a master’s degree. I searched for months before deciding that college was my ticket to financial security. When I arrived, I moved myself and my children – then aged six and nine – to Montana. I received enough help to cover school fees, but I still needed to take more loans to cover rent and bills. In 2015, I completed my graduate studies with $ 43,441. Despite the higher cost of living in Missoula, MT, I was able to keep my debt under the average of $ 66,000 that borrowers typically accumulate for a master’s degree. As a single parent, I worked as much as I could outside of class to make this happen.
Five years later, the interest rates on my loans have snowballed and I now owe almost $ 81,000, almost $ 13,000 more than I originally took out. And the numbers keep increasing.
Student loan debt is linked to inequality
As declared in 2020, women hold two-thirds of student debt. Besides, 2019 Study Finds Student Loan Debt Much More For Black Americans: “The typical black student borrower took about $ 3,000 more in loans than his white peers; yet, 20 years after starting school, the typical black borrower owed about $ 17,500 more than their white peers. At that time, almost half of white borrowers were students. debt-free (49%), while only a quarter of black borrowers were able to repay all of their loans (26%).
Not only would forgiving student loans house and feed more people, it would also help reduce the gender wealth gap and the racial wealth gap.
Opponents argue that canceling student loans would not be fair to the people who have paid off their loans, but it is a move that will stimulate the economy and benefit everyone. A 2018 report concludes that universal student debt cancellation would increase GDP by about $ 100 billion per year and lead to the creation of up to 1.55 million jobs per year. As the Collective debt, a union that organizes around debt cancellation, writes: “Most people are not in debt because they live beyond their means; they are in debt because they have been denied the means to live. It shouldn’t be a partisan issue.
While my kids received more than linens for Christmas, I remain troubled by their enjoyment of a basic household item. I want more for them. I want Alex to be able to go to college, but I don’t want any of my kids to be trapped by a predatory system designed to keep them stuck in crippling debt. The total cancellation of the student loan would give families like mine more opportunities and help my children escape the cycle of poverty.