‘This will change everything for me’: Americans react to Biden’s plan to forgive up to $20,000 in student loans

By Emma Tucker and Jimin Lee, CNN

(CNN) – Americans across the country are sharing mixed reactions to President Joe Biden’s decision to forgive up to $20,000 in student loans for millions of borrowers.

Biden announced in August Borrowers who owe the Department of Education and make less than $125,000 annually are eligible to receive up to $20,000 in student loan forgiveness if they are awarded Pell Grants, which are awarded to students from low- and middle-income families. Individuals who make less than $125,000 a year but do not receive a Pell Grant are eligible for $10,000 in loan forgiveness.

Student loan relief will be combined with a plan to phase out the federal student loan moratorium starting in January 2023.

On Friday, finally the Biden administration opened the application process During the beta period, officials told CNN they will allow applicants to begin registering before the website officially launches later this month.

Biden said the administration’s “targeted actions are for families who need it most: working and middle-class people making up to $125,000 a year, especially during the pandemic.” He noted that “about 90% of eligible beneficiaries make under $75,000.”

But the nation is divided over Biden’s decision, flooding the media with either praise or criticism. Many are hailing the executive order as a game changer for millions of Americans drowning in debt, while others say it’s unfair to those who have made sacrifices and worked hard to pay off college debt.

Here’s what some Americans are saying about Biden’s plan.

Pamela Bone

Pamela Bone is a 59-year-old resident of Atlanta, Georgia. Her youngest daughter has cerebral palsy, which inspired her to become a teacher of middle school students with moderate intellectual disabilities.

Bone said she and her family moved from Seattle after her daughter was born and stayed home briefly to be there through several surgeries and doctor’s appointments. She also volunteered at her daughter’s school and said she was “amazed by all the time, care, attention and love her teachers gave,” prompting her to return to school to earn her master’s degree and associate’s degree. .

“I wanted to give back to the students what my daughter received from loved ones, and I just knew that this would be my true calling in life,” Bohn said. “Needless to say, it was expensive to get the necessary certificates, but it was also necessary because I was now divorced and had to take care of myself and my daughter.”

Bon said that although teachers have low salaries, his profession is “near and dear” to his heart.

“Cancelling this debt means I can spend more on my daughter’s future to provide a comfortable and meaningful life for both of us, something I am truly grateful for,” she said.

Jo Ann Hardy

Jo Ann Hardy, a 66-year-old from Detroit, Michigan, says her family is middle-class African American. She and her husband, Jerry, paid for their daughter’s master’s degree in 2004. All three of them sacrificed and worked hard so that their daughter could study with several academic scholarships.

“We did it! No debt! Even though we didn’t need the loan support, we’re excited that President Biden announced a plan to help students who had to take out loans.” “We are smart and compassionate enough to know that not all students and families can make it without help!”

The Hardys fully support efforts to free up some student loan debt for borrowers. They said they have known students and families over the years who “give their all and make valuable contributions as professionals in our communities and across the US.”

“For those who could do it without student loans — BRAVO! For those who needed loan help — BRAVO!” Hardy said.

Brian Lonsberry

Brian Lonsberry, 34, lives in Scottsburg, Indiana.

Lonsberry says he and his wife both held jobs during their time in college and made sacrifices to pay back their loans after college.

“Now these forgiven loans are a slap in the face. We did the right thing and fulfilled the commitment we signed up for.” “This policy sends the wrong message, no matter which side you’re on. This time it’s 10k, but next time people always want more. It’s not sustainable.”

Lonsberry says he supports getting a higher education, but believes each person is responsible for paying for themselves.

“At the end of the day, no one seems to want to take responsibility for their actions. People need to step up and take responsibility for themselves and their decisions, but it seems everyone just wants an autograph now.”

Elijah Watkins

Elijah Watkins is 28 years old from Atlanta, Georgia.

Watkins says Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan means he can move out of his mother’s house. Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Watkins says she has lived in a difficult environment that has forced her to choose between paying rent or paying off student loans. He chose the latter.

“This means I can start taking more steps in my adulthood to make bigger purchases like buying my first home, getting a new car or investing in my business,” Watkins said.

“Outside of Obamacare, this is the first time a president has directly affected my day-to-day decision-making and makes me proud to be a citizen of the United States of America,” he said.

Brian Garten

Brian Garten is a 30-year-old resident of Jacksonville, Florida.

Garten was a recipient of Pell Grants as well as several small scholarships and worked at various jobs through college. In addition to his federal student loans, he had to take out $26,000 in student loans and signed up to a repayment plan, never missing a payment in seven years, he said.

Garten still owes $21,000 in debt, which he says was at least 20 years away.

“It’s still holding me back from major life milestones,” she said. “I couldn’t even fathom saving money for a down payment on a house, and there was no way I was going to start a family.”

Garten says her student loans affect every aspect of her life, and Biden’s forgiveness plan “will change everything for me.”

She expects to have $20,000 forgiven and pay off the remaining balance to become completely debt-free for college.

“I plan to buy a new car with a warranty and a reliability guarantee for the near future,” he said. “This will be my biggest purchase and something I will consider an important investment in my future. Part of this student loan gives me hope to move forward in my life where I never had before.”

John Visser

John Wiser, 56, lives in Dallas, Texas.

Visser, who identifies as a progressive Democrat, opposes Biden’s decision. He said he did not agree with “handouts for people with financial problems”.

“If they could not repay, why did they take a loan in the first place?” he said.

Visser said his wife died 12 years ago, leaving him with a household income and bills he couldn’t handle on his own.

“I made some tough choices, stuck to a strict budget and paid off the debt as quickly as possible. Why shouldn’t a similar plan be the same for student loan borrowers? If they’ve gone to college, they should be able to manage their finances,” she said. .

Visser joined the United States Army in the late 1980s to earn the Army College Fund, a variant of the draft incentive and GI Bill benefits that helps with school or training costs for qualified veterans. Visser says the benefits he received helped pay for his college while working full time.

“It seems that now a portion of my taxes are being spent on paying those who took the easy way to their degrees without contributing back to society,” he said.

Rachel Clarke

Rachel Clark, 31, lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Clark was the first person in his family to earn a four-year university degree. She had grown up in and out of poverty, and the idea of ​​moving away to college was terrifying. Clark said her mother didn’t know about the financial aid process and the idea of ​​her oldest daughter leaving home “scared her.”

Clark completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) only to find that she had zero expected family contributions.

During her first year, Clark received both subsidized and unsubsidized loans to pay for the remainder of her tuition and university expenses such as books, supplies, and housing costs. During his college career, he worked full-time to support himself, but it sometimes caused his grades to drop. Clark says it was a miracle she was able to graduate with a 3.4 GPA.

“I entered the field of early childhood education almost immediately and realized that my most hopeful dreams about my future career were as gloomy as my ideas about college,” she said.

Clark worked as a teacher for about a decade for about $20 an hour, and she pays off her loans with payments of less than $100 a month as part of her income repayment plan.

“I once calculated – there’s a good chance I’ll die before I pay off my student loans. With my student loans off my shoulders, I can finally breathe,” he said.

Clark added that she feels very free knowing that student debt is one less weight I have to carry underwater.

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