Students react to Biden’s announcement that he will only cancel student loan debt up to $10,000 rather than the suggested $50,000


During a Milwaukee town hall on Feb. 16, President Joe Biden reiterated his position against $50,000 of loan relief for students, saying the relief will remain at $10,000. He believes cancellation above $10,000 should be based on the borrower’s income and other factors. 

Biden cited concern about his ability to cancel that amount of debt in addition to concerns about the consequences of debt cancellation on other policies, such as supporting early education for children. 

According to White House press secretary Jen Psaki, Biden will ask the Justice Department to clarify if he is permitted to cancel student debt.

“There needs to be a team at the Justice Department to make a recommendation on his legal authority,” said Psaki. “He will ask them to conduct a legal review of his authority to act by executive action.” 

Biden acknowledged how “debilitating” student loans can be, but still said, “I will not make that happen.” However, he stated that community college should be free and suggested volunteer service as a method of debt forgiveness, as well as eliminating interest on current debts. 

After Biden signed the COVID-19 relief package on March 11, borrowers with forgiven loans will no longer be required to pay taxes on the forgiven amount, which will not qualify as taxable income. The bill extends this condition until 2025. 

Mason students acknowledged the difference $10,000 in forgiveness will make for those paying back loans, but some feel it doesn’t do enough to fix the source of the debt problem.

“What are we doing to set up the next generation for success with their student loans?” asked Charlotte Braz, a Ph.D. student. Braz questioned if the system is capable of producing an educated society with the existing financial barriers. “It’s kind of a superficial step in the right direction. It doesn’t do that much for a lot of people.”

She believes the government could do more to help students, like putting a limit on how high colleges can increase tuition, raising the minimum wage and increasing scholarship opportunities.

Senior Jon Linney agrees that Biden’s current plan isn’t enough, saying students need better access to tuition and housing assistance in addition to debt relief. 

“Biden wasn’t nearly as aggressive as some progressives were on student debt,” said Linney. Because students may be less financially stable than the general population, Linney thinks increased aid will allow students to better focus on their education.

Senior Brianna Meyer said that students should have 50 percent of their debt relieved — no matter the amount they owe. She believes high interest rates and difficult-to-repay loans are unfair, especially when students are “nickel-and-dimed” for on-campus expenses like housing and parking. 

“The government needs to get control of private student loans and regulate them severely,” Meyer suggested. “Interest rates should not be higher than 6 percent. They need to expand FAFSA to the extent of additional grants and scholarships.” 

Students are skeptical that Biden’s decision to forgive $10,000 will translate into long-term change for the student debt crisis, citing concerns over the accessibility of resources like financial aid, challenges of paying back loans after graduating in fields with lower pay, and whether the system values education itself. 

“Do we want people seeking out higher education and having those resources?” asked Braz. “Everybody having access to an education that’s actually a quality education — I think it enables the success of the country itself.”