When an unfair act is fair: A broke students story

I’m not saying I didn’t understand what I was getting myself into by applying for student loans, but the bright-eyed, seventeen-year-old girl definitely underestimated the hole she was about to dig. 

In my defense, it was difficult to refuse the pushy high school counselor who made it her life’s mission to make sure I signed up for Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). I was a straight-A student, so in society’s eyes, it would’ve been wasteful for me to forgo further education. So like any star-studded student with dirt-poor parents, I did the “reasonable” thing and acquired thousands of dollars in debt.  

My story is not uncommon. In fact, according to the Washington Post, one out of five Americans take out over ten thousand dollars worth of student loans, equaling about $48 million in student loan debt per year. This statistic might raise some eyebrows, but the truth is that people have no choice… I mean, have you seen the average university tuition cost? A study by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce concluded that tuition fees and board increased by 169% since 1980.  

I cannot pretend I did not let out a sigh of relief with the news of Biden’s new bill promising debt forgiveness of up to twenty-thousand dollars. If you are not aware, here are some details released by the Federal Student Aid Department: 

  • You’re eligible for student loan debt relief if your annual federal income was below $125,000 (individual or married, filing separately) or $250,000 (married, filing jointly or head of household) in 2021 or 2020. 
  • If you received a Pell Grant in college and meet the income threshold, you’ll be eligible for up to $20,000 in debt relief. 
  • If you did not receive a Pell Grant in college and meet the income threshold, you’ll be eligible for up to $10,000 in debt relief.           

An online form will be available on FAFSA’s website for students and postgraduates in October until December 23rd. This relief plan will also help lower-income parents by offering up to ten thousand dollars for Parent Plus Loans. 

One of the larger recycled arguments is about the people who have already paid off their debt.  

Firstly, I would like to say congratulations, because you’ve managed to do what millions of Americans will never do in their lifetime. Secondly, I did not realize your success is not good enough that others will have to suffer for you to bask in your glory. I apologize for the snark, but this logic just seems bitter, especially considering the salary range of modern-day careers needing degrees doesn’t even surpass lower middle-class income anymore.  

The biggest concern, and one I don’t necessarily fault, is about who will be paying for this sudden forgiveness. The bill left us with a lot of questions, and not enough officially answered explanations from Biden and his team. An estimated three hundred thirty billion to three hundred ninety billion dollars will be the price of debt forgiveness. Most are quick to point out that this will be scavenged from the taxes of every working American.  

Despite favoring the relief plan, I do understand the perspective regarding unfair tax increases. Former secretary of education Betsy DeVos said, “It’s fundamentally unfair to ask two-thirds of Americans who don’t go to college to pay the bills for the mere one-third who do. And it’s even more unfair to those who have held up their end of the bargain and paid back their student loans themselves to subsidize those who don’t save, plan, and pay.”  

While I do not have the right to tell you how to spend your money, I ask you to bear this fact in mind: your tax money is already being used on things you may not technically need, but others need.  

I do not mind getting taxed for healthcare, welfare programs, and public infrastructure because I view it as a small price to pay for bettering our country. More importantly, this “one-third of Americans” Devos alludes to consists of doctors, social workers, teachers and other public servants necessary to American society. It is important to consider the reality of who might use this new policy rather than formulate judgment on outdated beliefs from a much cheaper time.  

Since student debt forgiveness ignites such controversy, perhaps a fixed price on education would solve the problem. Unfortunately, this is not a viable option and could potentially cause more harm.  

I try to remain unbiased, but I am one of the students who would benefit from loan forgiveness. However, I also understand the plight to create a better life without a foundation, whether it be family, community or education, that would provide the resources to do it. 

I admit I did not understand the true enormity of taking on loans, but my understanding felt like it came too late for me to fix it. Until higher education becomes affordable to the average American, this cycle of debt will continue, and tales like mine will be commonplace.