Like many who work in higher education, I have closely followed the progress of President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan. It’s certainly no surprise that it turned into another bitter partisan battle, as the program was forced to delay debt relief for just a week after 22 million borrowers applied for it. Many Americans in college debt who are still struggling financially due to the aftermath of COVID-19 would greatly benefit from this legislation, but they will have to wait as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reviews Nebraska v. Biden, the lawsuit against the president’s plan backed by several Republican-led states. Legal experts have spoken and said they don’t know how long the review will take, even though the court recently granted an emergency stay to begin weighing arguments. The delay is frustrating and stressful for borrowers who got much-needed relief with a pause in payments at the height of the pandemic and are eligible for loan forgiveness of up to $20,000. Payments are expected to resume in January and the court may not issue its decision by the start of the new year. Other legal challenges are also expected to follow.
With the cancellation of student loans in legal limbo right now, the whopping $1.6 trillion that Americans have racked up in college debt looms even more like a growing crisis, and I think that’s having some impact on declining college and university enrollment across the country. College enrollment was down before COVID, and after the pandemic hit in 2020, only 63% of high school students went straight to college, down from 70% in 2016, according to the National Center for Education. Statistics. Data from US News & World Report shows that the average student loan debt for 2021 college graduates is close to $30,000. Thousands of dollars in debt are also the result of tuition fees which have continued to skyrocket over the past 20 years. For example, US News & World Report also found that tuition and fees at public national universities, which would be among the top choices for many students who decide to stay home to save money, have increased by 175%.
Times are very different from when I was a student in the late 1980s. According to the Center for Online Education, in 1986 (the year before my first year of college), federal student loan debt was at nearly $10 billion, which was still quite high but completely dwarfed by what students owe today. I was fortunate enough to complete my college and graduate studies without any student debt. I had a four-year scholarship while studying at Central North Carolina University, a historically black university in Durham, and my tuition at Ohio State University were paid through a scholarship and several assistantships. Leaning heavily on my Christian faith as a youth, I have always attributed this to God who miraculously opened doors through my tithe giving to the church in my hometown and to the churches I have frequented during my studies. My family was solid middle class and my mom was willing to take out federal loans if needed, but we were lucky we didn’t have to go that route.
I have students examining the impact of student loan debt on their generation (Gen Z) for analytical research in my freshman English composition classes at the Lima campus of Ohio State , and I’m very interested in their opinions on Biden’s proposal. be after completing their projects, which will also include a presentation at the symposium. We covered the college debt crisis in our last class discussions, and knowing that my students are well aware that tuition is a high cost, I was encouraged that they are motivated to pursue their studies. No one shared if they had any loans, but some mentioned that coming to OSU Lima was the best choice for them due to the lower tuition for a secondary campus. On our discussion forums, students shared their career goals, including their aspirations to enter the fields of science, law, and medicine. They believe that despite the current challenges of paying tuition to earn a college degree, the financial sacrifices are worth it.
While Nebraska v. Biden is on the way, one obvious lesson we can take from this is that we need to keep working to make college more accessible to students. No one wants to be saddled with exorbitant student loan debt, and young people who want to go to college deserve the opportunity to pursue their dreams.
Dr. Jessica A. Johnson is a lecturer in the Department of English at the Lima campus of The Ohio State University. Email him at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter: @JjSmojc. To learn more about Jessica Johnson and read articles by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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