Area residents talk about canceling student debt
With millions set to see $10,000 or more of their student loans cut, The Day asked its readers what they think of President Joe Biden’s new policy.
Under a program announced last week, people with federal student loans who are not high-income borrowers are eligible. People must earn less than $125,000 per year, or $250,000 per household, to qualify for loan forgiveness. Most people will have $10,000 debt cleared, although some borrowers may have up to $20,000. It has been called a sweeping move by some – it relieves around 43 million Americans and eliminates debt entirely for around 20 million people. But millions of people are still heavily in debt; the cumulative federal student loan debt is $1.6 trillion.
The Day asked its readers if they would get a break on their student loans under the program and if they had recently finished repaying their student loans. Responses varied across experiences with loans and across political backgrounds, and showed that student debt forgiveness was primarily a partisan issue, with Republicans opposed and Democrats in favor.
Owen Hughes of Stonington said he was over 70 and did not claim a political party. He acknowledged that the issue of student loans is complicated. He referred to what several other respondents did, the timing of Biden’s executive order in the middle of the election season – “If one is charitable, one will assume that this is not just another ploy by buying votes is a long-standing need to address a very big problem,” Hughes said.
“The moment you say, ‘No, not a penny,’ you’re faced with the fact that there are a lot of people who have a lot of debt,” Hughes said. “But if you suddenly say, ‘Oh, we’re going to have a debt jubilee and everything goes to zero, what about all the other obligations? My car loan? My mortgage? What distinguishes this morally?
Hughes acknowledged the inflated price of tuition, which costs far more than the $4,000 a year he took out decades ago and paid off in full. He suggested looking at the cost of tuition rather than just writing off the debt.
According to the National Center for Education, the average price of a college education jumped 169% between 1980 and 2021, from just over $10,000 per year to nearly $29,000 per year. As for elite schools, which regularly cost $70,000 a year, some respondents said that if you know you can’t afford it or can’t repay the loan, you wouldn’t have had to contract it from the start. square.
Karan Conover, an East Haddam Democrat who grew up in Groton, was one of the few respondents to wholeheartedly support Biden’s decision on student loan debt. She said her son benefited, but not her daughter, who has already paid off her student loans.
Conover denounced the double standard of people of his generation who say they can repay their loans.
“I’m in my 60s. I had loans that I took out for UConn. At that time, I could walk into a bank and get my student loan without even co-signing it,” she said. I had a part-time job and I could afford them. They weren’t expensive. These days, that’s not the case anymore.”
She spoke about the difficult position young Americans are placed in coming out of college, with low-paying jobs and an unaffordable housing market they face as they try to pay off their debts.
“You are told that you have to have a diploma for everything now. So you’re putting all that money into your education, but no employer is paying enough for you to pay the thing back,” Conover said, referring to student loan debt. “Then you get loans where you end up paying more than you actually paid because of the interest, and nobody can get out of the hole. You can’t buy a house because you can’t afford it — all of that hurts the economy.
Conover challenged the prevailing attitude that “just because I didn’t get the break doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have it”.
“I feel like the Republicans don’t want anyone to take advantage of this. They think everything is a right,” Conover said.
James Bush, an unaffiliated Waterford voter who leans Libertarian, said he and his wife paid off their student loans last year after paying them back for a decade.
Bush said he was not bitter that he had so recently finished repaying his student loans. But he doesn’t think canceling the loan is the best way to solve the overpriced education problem.
“I don’t think going up and clearing the slate will effectively solve the problem. I think there’s a problem with the cost of college for people,” Bush said. “We have the midterms coming up. I just feel like it was a little ploy to buy votes without addressing the real issue.
Bush said the problem and the solution lie with higher education institutions and their tuition fees are rising year on year.
“If you’re a college and you’re taking state and federal dollars, you should have some responsibility to make sure you’re providing an affordable education,” Bush said. “The price of college has been rising way faster than the rate of inflation for about three decades. Where’s the responsibility to go to these colleges and say, ‘Hey guys, 10, 11, 12 percent d increase every year, we’re not going to let our dollars go to that.”
Mary Lynch-Keppel, a Republican and longtime resident of Groton who now lives in Pennsylvania, said she felt Biden’s decision “was a bunch of bullshit.”
“I was brought up in a time where if you took a loan you paid it, period, whether you could do it or not. If you couldn’t repay the loan, you couldn’t take out the loan. Nothing was given to me, I had to earn everything I had, and if I couldn’t afford it, I didn’t buy it,” Lynch-Keppel said.
She feels the same way about other bailout programs that have canceled loans such as the Payment Protection Program, in which $800 billion was issued by the federal government to help businesses during the pandemic, because she does not agree with bailouts in any form.
“It’s not my job to pay taxes to pay off someone else’s debt,” Lynch-Keppel said. “I don’t believe in donations unless they’re really needed. You do it, you discover it yourself. If there is no other recourse, if you have exhausted all other availabilities, then yes, I will help you.
Bill Carpiniello, a Republican from Lyme who said he was born in 1932, said he and his wife were able to save money to send their children to school. He feared that canceling loan debt would send the wrong message to young people.
“Once you’ve made a loan, you have a very strong commitment to return that money,” Carpiniello said. “When you get a program like this, you know it’s going to be abused in some way. I look tough, I’m not a tough man. I just think, by gum, you borrow money – and there are extreme cases of course, sickness, children from poor homes, I can understand that. But there are an awful lot of people who go to school where you paying $50,000 a year and repaying huge loans. So choose a school that doesn’t cost that much!
Other respondents who responded to The Day by email or Facebook message but could not be reached by phone had a variety of opinions on student loan debt, including responses asking that anyone with outstanding loans in any form receive at least $10,000 back.
Other respondents said they believe Biden’s move could create buying/saving/investing power for a segment of the population that hasn’t had that financial power in the past, and that could help the economy for decades to come.
Others were squarely in the Lynch-Keppel and Carpiniello camp, calling the cancellation of student loan debt a handout and a simple breach of contract. People argued that they had been saving money for many years, even skipping holidays, to pay off their loans or those of their children – why should this new generation of students be spared? Still others, who weren’t even Biden supporters, spoke about how canceling student debt would immediately help them and their families.