• Callie McNorton

The Student Loan Debt Crisis in the US

Student loan debt has reached an all-time high, with 43 million Americans carrying an estimated $1.75 trillion in federal loan student debt and $119 billion in private student loans.


Students browsing on computers at a college library.

A rise in tuition prices is the main contributor to overwhelming debt in America. The average

cost of tuition, fees, room, and board at a public four-year university is $43,280 for out-of-state

students.


The brunt of the crisis falls onto women and people of color. Women are more likely to take loans for college, making them take out more money initially, ultimately leading to them being two-thirds of the indebted population.


While this fact is not inherently wrong, it can reflect the gender pay gap once women

enter the workforce. Women earn 82 cents to the man’s dollar as of 2020, leading to fewer

women being able to pay off debts as quickly as men.


A slower debt payoff can negatively affect finances in all kinds of ways. From less money in

savings, $2,000 for women versus $8,000 for men, to less in retirement, $23,000 compared to $76,000.


Minorities also feel the weight of loan debt. 71% of Black students borrow federal loans to pay

compared to 56% of white students. Marginalized communities having to pay more money will ultimately continue the cycle of the racial gap in this country.


Hope Under the Biden Administration


However, students may be seeing more debt forgiveness under the Biden administration than ever. Since the start of the pandemic, the federal student loan payment pause has been

extended time and time again.


Even though the pause is set to end on May 1, there have been suggestions that it may continue. Furthermore, students are reminded of the president’s promise to cancel at least $10,000 in student debt per borrower.


During his campaign, President Biden made claims about the cancellation of debt, but it is hard not to notice his reluctance. “Student debt cancellation is a racial & economic justice issue,” tweets Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass.


Latest News


The latest news is that millions of student loan debts are closer to being wiped out after Education Department announced a slew of new measures on Tuesday, April 18. About 40,000 borrowers are said to be immediately rewarded with loan cancellations under a student loan forgiveness program for public servants.


According to James Kvaal, the Education Department's undersecretary, more than 9 million borrowers are enrolled in income-driven repayment programs, and over 3.6 million of them will be able to move closer to debt forgiveness as a result of the changes, with at least three years of new credit toward cancellation.


Conclusion


While widespread student loan cancellation is a hefty task and is primarily opposed by the Republican party, small moves could be made to aid borrowers.


First, I believe that targeting borrowers in need would be a good first step in helping the student debt crisis. If the pause ends soon, more access to financing resources and income-driven repayment could end the crisis.


The biggest ask is that student loan debt cancellation should be more widespread. I believe that policymakers should make a plan to ensure that this crisis does not continue longer than

it already has. This systemic change will put students, primarily minorities, in a position to

succeed and get over hurdles that should no longer be in place.


There is a call to action happening, and it is up to the President to step up and hear the concerns of his party and students around the nation. As we begin to take charge and demand reparations, this is one of the promises the President should uphold.



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Callie McNorton is a Journalism (Media and Society) student at Georgia State University and a Content Writer at the International Youths Organization for Peace and Sustainability.


Inputs and Edits by Sovena Ngeth and Aswin Raghav R.