A Form of Relief

After years and years of hard work, you’ve finally done it. In just a few short weeks, you’ll be graduating college. You’ve had your ups and downs, some classes were more difficult than others, but in the end, you came out on top. At graduation, your name is called, and you begin your walk to the stage. As you walk, you hear your family cheering you on. When you finally reach the stage to accept your diploma, a dark reality begins to set in. You ask yourself a question every college student in America has asked themselves for years.

Read more: A Form of Relief

“How am I going to pay off my student loan debt?” 

For many Americans, student debt is a reality that must be dealt with every day. Here in Pennsylvania, this issue is especially relevant. In 2019, as much as 64% of graduates took on student loan debt, averaging out to around almost $39,000 in debt per student. Here in Philadelphia, as of 2018, 310,000 residents owed $11.6 Billion in debt. 

Such ludicrous amounts of debt, coupled with staggering interest rates, leaves Americans economically paralyzed, with little that can be done to climb over the insurmountable wall that is student debt. At Holy Family, it’s a story many of us are all too familiar with, and are dreading for the future.

There are certain measures in place that help somewhat alleviate the problem of student debt. When filing your taxes, you’re allowed to deduct up to $2,500 in interest paid from your taxable income. If your modified adjusted gross income is less than $70,000 or $145,000 if filing jointly, you qualify for the deduction. 

However, even this is subject to its limitations. As the years go by, the deduction begins to decrease, and eventually is eliminated altogether when your MAGI reaches the annual limit for your filing status. More action is required if the process of eliminating the over 1.5 trillion dollars of student loan debt plaguing the country. 

For this reason, President Joe Biden rolled out a plan back in August to help alleviate the burden of student loan debt for millions of Americans. On August 22nd, 2022, the Biden Administration announced their plan to forgive upwards of $10,000 of college debt for non-Pell Grant recipients from households making less than $125,000 a year. Additionally, the plan also allowed Pell Grant recipients to have upwards of $20,000 in debt forgiveness. 

(President Biden speaking to students about his Program) 

While this plan would far from erase all existing debt-ailing Americans, it would at the very least provide much-needed relief and at least some form of hope for the potential of repaying the mountain of debt. It would most directly benefit the recipients of the aid, young students still suffering under crippling debt. More specifically, those in the age range of 50-61, with the highest average amount of debt, would be most appreciative of this relief

However, the Biden Administration’s plan hit a snag when numerous courts struck down the program, deeming it unconstitutional and an overreach of executive power. Members of Congress have also proven to be opposed to the plan, with as many as 171 representatives and senators, all of which being Republicans, signing briefs with the Supreme Court in an attempt to further quash the Biden Admin’s plan. Most recently, another major blow was struck during the Oral Arguments at the Supreme Court, where the conservative supermajority showed unified support for striking the plan down entirely.

Support among the public proves further mixed, with many that do not support the plan having varying reasons for their dissent. Some disapprove of the measure because they’ve already had their own debt forgiven, and see it as unfair that they would be punished for paying off their debts as intended. Others believe that forgiving that much debt at once would negatively affect the economy, forcing a burden on taxpayers to help foot the bill for the program.

However, while these are valid concerns to have with any program of this magnitude, they do not fully take into account the massive boost to the overall economy that would come from forgiving even as low as $10,000 in debt, or how inherently flawed the argument of forcing others to suffer as you have.

To address the argument made by those who have already paid off their debt, the issue lies in the hypocrisy of the argument. It is not fair to force others to suffer under a burden that can be easily fixed, simply because others could not be offered the deal in the past. 

(Students protesting outside the Supreme Court) 

Addressing the financial arguments, forgiving even a portion of the near-insurmountable debt held by Americans helps open the doors for more money to begin flowing into the economy. With so much focus on repaying student loans, debtors have been forced to funnel money that would otherwise be used to support businesses and the local economy into attempting to alleviate the burden of their debt.

The best example of this would be in the real estate market. Homeownership in Pennsylvania has been declining over the years in large part due to younger generations being straddled with debt that prevents them from purchasing housing. While it is not impossible to take out a mortgage with student loans, it still negatively affects the likelihood of obtaining one.

With many of us preparing to graduate college and begin paying back our loan payments, it’s important to understand how crucial this kind of aid is for the future. The economic boost that would come from freeing up capital for indebted students cannot be exaggerated. 

Opponents of this plan would do well to note these economic benefits and understand what exactly it is they’re fighting against. They’re fighting against the opportunity to have a citizenry engaging in the economy, lightened of the burden of their debt. It is only right, for the sake of the future of the US, that the Biden administration is allowed to go ahead with their plan to alleviate millions of at least a part of their debts. 

Kevin Flynn is a Senior History Student at Holy Family University. After graduating, Kevin intends to work in a museum. He lives with his mother, father, and sister, and is a big fan of football and video games.