Americans owe $1.73 trillion in student loans. In 2019, 69% of college students took out loans for post-secondary education. The average debt of 2018-2019 graduates in Vermont was $30,566. Many recent graduates struggle to make their monthly loan payments, while balancing other expenses like housing and food. It takes the average American 20 years to pay off their student loan debt, leaving millions of educated Americans in poverty. Bernie Sanders famously wants to cancel student loan debt and relieve the 42.9 million Americans who owe student loans. But this issue is more than just a Progressive talking point; it’s critical for millions of Americans to advance their careers, pursue home ownership and achieve the so-called American dream.
My husband and I were both lucky to graduate college without debt, due to merit-based scholarships and family savings. But, when I went to graduate school in 2017, we paid half my tuition up-front and borrowed the remainder. Since graduating in January 2019, I’ve been paying the equivalent of more than two weeks of groceries each month towards my student loan debt. Until COVID-19 hit and payments were paused.
Since March 13, 2020, like so many students, my loans have been suspended with an interest rate of 0.00%. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of Education authorized student loan services to suspend payments for at least 60 days. Since then, the forbearance has been extended several times. Now, payments will resume effective January 31, 2022, and millions of Americans, many who are currently unemployed, need to figure out how to make their payments again.
This week, President Biden announced he is ready to sign student loan forgiveness into law, though Congress has yet to pass legislation. Public hearings are underway to discuss relieving student debt, which would be a gamechanger for the millions of Americans crippled by student loans. No one is harmed if millions of students have their loans forgiven.