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America has a $1.7 trillion student loan debt problem. Here’s what 6 borrowers think will solve the crisis as Biden’s forgiveness plan stalls


When President Joe Biden announced a plan to write off federal student loan debt of up to $10,000 to $20,000 for most borrowers, it was the first time in many of their adult lives that people carrying the burden of feel hopeful that one day they will get out of their predicament. debt.

They say it’s not a panacea for America’s student loan crisis, but it’s a start – especially for millennials and the oldest members of Gen Zwho had to face higher college expenses than previous generations. U.S. student loan debt has exploded over the past three decades. Some 48 million borrowers owe more than $1.7 trillion, more than Americans owe in auto loans and credit card debt. The cost of college, and the debt borrowers have to pay, in the United States is higher than in most other wealthy nations.

That debt weighs heavily on many borrowers, causing them to delay timelines and worsen their mental health. Although a college graduate is still likely to earn more than someone who has never attended school, many borrowers say they feel cheated and even deceived about the importance of borrowing. money to attend a higher education institution.

“I’m always asked to sign here and here,” said Amanda Fortunato, 31, who graduated with more than $100,000 in student loan debt. “My 18-year-old mind at the time, or even 21, couldn’t make sense of what I signed.”

Voters in favor of forgiveness say it looks like the federal government is finally starting to take the matter seriously. But Biden’s The relief plan was blocked by two different courtsand its future is uncertain. That left some borrowers confused, angry and, in many cases, boredom.

Critics and advocates of loan forgiveness both say they also stress that more needs to be done to combat the rising cost of higher education and the growing debt that the nation’s young people have. was asked to shoulder in the hope of a better future.

“This is not a solution, Biden’s bailout plan,” said André Perry, an expert. senior colleague at the Brookings Institution. “Ultimately, tuition continues to rise. But doing nothing is ignoring a growing problem. People need relief.”

Luck asked readers what they think they should do to address college affordability and student loan debt. Here’s what some of them say. The answers have been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

lower interest rates

A future-oriented solution is needed to interest rates are not as high as theirs. Education is an investment in your society for the future, and loan sharking needs to be eradicated. Limit interest to a lower percentage, because the cost of learning is tens of thousands of dollars, if not hundreds of thousands.

I also think a bigger push is needed to really force universities not to increase tuition year after year.

John Meyers32, North Carolina

I don’t think student debt should be forgiven by the government. I really like the idea of ​​the government forgiving or canceling the accrued interest on student loans… Also, the current program seems to make a lot of sense: After certain payments based on on income, the remainder of the debt qualifies for forgiveness.

— Zach Kossow

Reform and expand other loan forgiveness programs

First, the government must put pressure on universities to charge fair prices. Second, theoretically, interest in socially beneficial things (such as getting a degree) should be capped. Do not charge more than X percent or reduce it for annual payments made on time.

Third, there needs to be more ways to write off public service debt. The criteria should be open to other professions and/or pathways. Fourth, if you make your mandatory income-based repayment plan payments on time, the remaining balance will not be taxable.

Fifth, interest does not accrue during the six-month grace period after graduation. Sixth, existing loans are not written off upon death or bankruptcy. They should be.

Finally, the education system needs to better educate 18-year-olds about what they are actually signing up for.

— Amanda Fortunato, 31 years old, Philadelphia

Allow student loans to be disbursed in the event of bankruptcy

If the Biden administration is blocked from writing off student debt, what they should do is cancel all interest. Mainly because the government should not profit from what is considered a public service.

That would be a huge win and similar to student loan debt forgiveness. It will also help students pay off loans faster. Right now I am throwing money away only paying interest every month.

The second thing the government should do is authorize the payment of student loan debt in bankruptcy.

When most college kids apply for loans, they’re naive, young 18-year-olds who don’t think about the long-term consequences. They think they will be rich and successful. The truth is, a college degree is the new GED and most graduates barely earn a living wage.

— Thomas J. Warner, 38 years old, Kentucky

Expanding educational options

If debt forgiveness is not possible, we need to stop interest rates and bubbles on existing student loan holders. We need to restructure payment plans to make them more manageable, because 10% of your gross income when your gross income isn’t even enough to cover the rest of your bills is too much. much.

Also, if the key to fighting poverty is education, then why can only the elite go to school without having to sign off on their lives? What colleges and universities are charging to schools is crime. The length of time students have to stay in school to earn their degrees is also wrong… Shorten the length of educational programs and make them more affordable.

Finally, bring hands-on training and one-year certifications. Why do we need a four-year degree for $50,000 to get a job as a cameraman at a news station?

— Melissa Suriano, 42 years old, Michigan

Encourage gap year

Encourage a national culture where high school students have a gap year through programs like AmeriCorps. These programs have a number of compelling features: They give high school students the opportunity to gain some real-world experience and more time to figure out their jobs (so they don’t work). loan to figure this out), the AmeriCorps program offers all participants the option of a Segal Education Award that they can apply for future (or past) (future) studies. equivalent to the maximum amount of Pell Grants per year) and more broadly, these programs provide an opportunity to unite Americans for a common cause like poverty alleviation at home—it’s a great way to create unity in a time when our country needs more.

And of course, ask the government to offer a wide range of payment plans, guarantee extremely low interest rates for students who pay monthly, and make sure programs like Public Service Loan Forgiveness do. true to their promises.

Travis Rapoza31, Massachusetts

This story was originally featured on Fortune.com

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