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Home POLITICS How Biden's student loan relief plan will affect 7 people

How Biden’s student loan relief plan will affect 7 people

Alice P, 31

Raised by Korean immigrants in central California, Alice P. (who asked to withhold her full name so she could speak freely) understood from a young age that she was going to college. Her parents moved to the US in the 1970s and 1980s and wanted her children to live the American dream, she said, a large part of which included higher education.

There was no doubt that Alice would have to take out loans in order to pay for college. But at 18, she didn’t know how far these loans would follow her into adulthood.

“I didn’t really add up all the numbers because I was a kid. And I was just saying yes to everything because I wanted to go to college,” she said. “And here I am, almost 10 years since I graduated from college, reaping the consequences.”

Alice has scrimped and saved over the years, being careful not to fall behind on her payments and keeping her credit rating intact. She still has about $11,000 left to pay, an amount that includes years of accrued interest.

Not having to pay monthly payments in the last two years has eased his financial situation, allowing him to save money to be able to leave his hometown. He has also done wonders for his mental health. But she still carries the burden of her debt, as “this black cloud has hung over me,” she said.

Alice was cautiously optimistic about Biden’s pardon plan. As a Pell Grant recipient making less than $125,000 a year, she believes the remainder of her loans will be fully forgiven, but like many others who spoke to BuzzFeed News, she’s still trying to figure out what the plan means for her.

“’I’m a little skeptical about how it’s all going to work out. It sounds too good to be true,” she said. “If everything turns out to be exactly what they’re saying and there’s no fine print, then yes, absolutely. I’m excited. … And I think this will definitely open up opportunities for people to do the things they want to do and live more fulfilling lives.”

Morgan J, 35

Morgan J. went back to school 10 years ago, thinking she needed a college education to get a job that would pay her enough to take care of her family. Then in 2014, her husband suffered the second of two strokes and was unable to work, so she decided to go to graduate school to become a licensed therapist to earn more money.

A bachelor’s and master’s degree later, the 35-year-old mother of two is $130,000 in student loan debt, more than double her current income.

“I thought I would make enough money to pay for everything, but that’s clearly not the case,” said Morgan, who asked that his last name not be published to protect his privacy.

The $20,000 in student loan debt relief he expects to receive under Biden’s plan is “a small drop in the ocean,” he said. And when it comes time to start paying off his loans in January, he doesn’t know how he’s going to pay them off.

Not having to repay her loans during the moratorium has meant feeding her two teenage children “more than ramen, peanut butter and jelly,” she said. Her family has been able to buy what they need and take short vacations that they normally would not be able to continue. Her children have also been able to play sports, but during the summer they had to give up some because gas prices increased and other costs increased due to inflation.

Now, Morgan said, her 13-year-old daughter is “constantly worried about how much things cost.” He tells her that she doesn’t need new clothes, even though her shirts don’t fit anymore.

Morgan hopes that under Biden’s rules, her monthly payment will drop from the $805 estimate she received during the freeze. Still, he is contemplating working a night shift at a mental health hospital. But that would mean that she would have less time with her children in her later childhood years, less time with her husband, and less time for herself.

“I love what I do and I needed an education to support my family,” Morgan said, letting out a big sigh. “But if I had known then that everything would cost what it does now, I might not have done it.”

It’s frustrating, he said, to hear people like Republican Senator Mitch McConnell call Biden’s plan “a slap in the face” to people who worked hard to pay off their debt or avoid it altogether.

“Yes, I went to school. I took this money for that, but I did it to have a better life, and at that time that was the only way to have a better life,” Morgan said, asking how much he should expect me to work to be able to leave your kids play sports and raise them in a nice area “Why is it okay for me to have two, three jobs? Why is it okay for someone to have to work two or three jobs?

Santana, 35

Santana, who asked to be identified by her first name to protect her privacy, grew up knowing college would be her ticket to success. She was accepted to a prestigious school, but even with scholarships and Pell Grants, she completed her bachelor’s degree with about $50,000 to $60,000 in federal loans. Santana said that she was “obsessed with paying it off,” taking any chance she got to reduce that debt.

A master’s degree left him another $60,000 in federal loans that carried an interest rate of 7% to 11%. She refinanced those loans in 2019. The COVID-era payment break did not apply to those refinanced loans, on which she pays about $900 a month. But she stopped her payments on her remaining $5,000 in college student loans, allowing her to invest a little money in an index fund for the first time.

Santana, a first-generation Black and Latina immigrant, grew up in poverty. She said that it was instilled in her from a young age that higher education was the way out. She was the first in her family to graduate from college.

“When you’re young and they tell you, ‘Go to college,’ and ‘This is how you’re going to do it,’ and ‘Get out of this debt,'” he said. “I knew it was a lot of money. I knew it would take a long time to pay it off, but I didn’t realize how this debt could prevent me from having something to pass on to my future children.”

Santana isn’t sure if her refinanced graduate loans, which total about $40,000, qualify for debt relief under Biden’s plan, and she doesn’t know where to get answers.

“That’s what worries me the most, does this mean that $5,000 of my debt has been eliminated? Because that’s what I still owe for my bachelor’s degree,” she said. “Or does this mean that $20,000 has been lost? Those are two very different realities.”

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