By Saurabh Kumar
At the very beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, former President Donald Trump paused student loan repayments, causing millions of Americans to emit a collective sigh of relief during a maelstrom of layoffs, shutdowns, and hardship. Now, more than two years later, President Joe Biden is expected to extend the moratorium yet again, according to an article recently published by TIME Magazine.
As student loans burden an increasing share of American people, more and more support has emerged for President Biden to cancel the over $1.8 trillion of student debt held by American people. Even John King, former Education Secretary under President Barack Obama, urged President Biden this past month to relieve Americans of student loan debt. King was inspired by his own struggles paying for his education. A CNBC article reported that King was able to completely pay his debt only after he left his post as Education Secretary.
Since the loan repayment pause two years ago, Americans have collectively saved almost $200 billion, reported The Wall Street Journal in an article that highlights new research from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The report finds that, should the moratorium come to an end, Americans are likely to face great difficulty paying their debt and anticipates a rise in delinquency rates.
This, of course, begs the question of what is stopping lawmakers from supporting student loan forgiveness if it would mean economic freedom for millions more Americans. According to Forbes, the true benefits of the decision are uncertain, with claims that such a unilateral cancellation would unequally impact different groups of people—such as those who have already paid their debts or those who opted to attend less costly universities for financial reasons—or that it would not truly stimulate the economy.
But is this a sign that the cost of education in America is problematic? According to an article published in The Atlantic, Americans spend more than twice what the average developed nation spends on education—about $30,000 per student per year. With access to education and education inequality already running rampant across the country, perhaps a sweeping change is what the nation needs.
A 2017 Senate report even found that the average college student would need to earn $38.63/hour working full-time over the summer to pay for one year at a public college and an even more shocking $87.25/hour for a private institution. The gap between either of these figures and the prevailing federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour is both striking and illustrative of the barriers to affordable education in the nation. And, it is only getting worse. The same report found that the average undergraduate borrows 6.5x more than they did 35 years ago.
Whether forgiving student loan debt is the right path or not, it is growingly clear that something must be done about the cost of education in America. As we aim for a more sustainable future, equal and accessible education is vital and currently being overlooked. While the government ponders the status of the moratorium on student loan payments, it is beyond time to also tackle a source of immense stress for 40 million American people. □