When the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States this spring, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle struggled to adopt a relief agenda. Along with expanding unemployment benefits and stimulus checks, Congress has provided much-needed relief from student loans, stop debt collection and suspend federal student loan repayments. While these measures have enjoyed widespread bipartisan support, Republican lawmakers, in particular, have since refused to tackle the broader problem of student debt.
Over 45 million Americans hold $ 1.7 trillion in student debt. In March, several Democratic leaders, including Senator Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MI), reacted to address this growing crisis by to propose a plan to provide at least $ 10,000 in student loan relief to every federal borrower during the national emergency. Like Warren mentionned, the plan was to “… create a real stimulus at the grassroots to help us through this crisis.”
Most Republicans in the Senate, even those who backed an expansive relief bill, rejected Proposal. “Democrats are trying to cut student loans by $ 10,000,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told Fox News, “What’s that got to do with the virus?”
Decades of disinvestment in education
While opposing senators may speak with authority on the matter, by and large they are not in touch with the plight of student borrowers today. In Congress, the average age of members of the House is around 57 years old; the average age of senators is exceeded 61 years old. This means the majority of lawmakers went to college in the 1970s and 1980s. before the costs get out of hand.
During the Reagan Era, the cost of college shifted from the states to the students. After the adoption of tax limits in the 1980s, state governments limit in the amount they could tax and spend. Public colleges have suffered. In the late 1980s, tuition fees at public colleges were increasing at a rate that overwhelmed rising incomes, and depth of Reagan cuts in funding for higher education and student aid only pushed the price further. Between 1980 and 2014, the annual increase in college tuition fees increased by approximately 260%, far more than the 120% increase in other consumer goods.
As tuition fees increased, students increasingly relied on federal loans to cover tuition fees. Even then, many struggled to break even; government limits on borrowers have caused students to look to private lenders – banks, credit unions and government affiliates – to make up the difference. Often times, these private loans end up being much more expensive. Unlike the government, these lenders set their own terms and do not guarantee fixed interest rates.
There is no indication that things are slowing down. Americans today spend more per student than in any other country other than Luxembourg. As a result, students enter the labor market with huge financial burdens, with the average borrower bearing $ 32,731 in student debt.
Pressure on Biden constructions
At the start of his campaign, President-elect Joe Biden did not make student loan relief a major part of his platform. On his website, he only mentions student debt in passing. Biden promises “Helping teachers and other educators repay their student loans” without going into detail on how this will be done.
Perhaps giving in to pressure from the progressive wing of the party, Biden began to enter the discussion in March. In one Tweeter, he approved the Democratic proposal for $ 10,000 relief for federal student borrowers. Months later, at a press conference, he supported a provision of the HEROES law which calls on the federal government to pay up to $ 10,000 in private loans to low-income borrowers.
Last September, the senses. Warren and Schumer have made another effort to resuscitate the debate, this time with a bolder vision. Together they co-author of a resolution calling on the next president to use executive power to write off up to $ 50,000 in federal student loan debt per student. It would mean that debt of three quarters of borrowers could be erased.
Biden has yet to approve the plan, but Democrats continue to urge him to act. In addition to the Schumer-Warren resolution, House Representatives Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Maxine Waters (D-CA), Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Alma Adams (D-NC) introduced a resolution that echoed the call for the cancellation of $ 50,000 in federal debt. Among the loudest are the young voters who helped secure Biden’s victory defenders for the general cancellation of student debt.The debate has already started. VOX follows the discussion minute by minute. Soon there will be many more.