Advocates say more should be done to forgive student debt, lower higher-education costs
President Joe Biden made his long-awaited announcement on forgiving student loans on Wednesday. The White House says that the executive action will provide relief to up to 43 million borrowers and zero out the balance for 20 million.
Biden’s order forgives $10,000 in student loans for many graduates and $20,000 for those on federal Pell grants.
But some New Jersey advocates and others say that while it is a good first step, more needs to be done.
“It’s good news that there will be some cancellations. It’s not enough,” says Beverly Brown Ruggia, with New Jersey Citizen Action.
The average student borrower in New Jersey owes more than $30,000. New Jersey Citizen Action wants Biden to forgive up to $50,000 in debt.
“We need to help strengthen our workforce and create an environment where we have the most highly educated workforce in the world,” Brown Ruggia says. “That's what we want. That's what this country needs to invest in. $50,000 is not that much money.”
The president says that about a third of borrowers have debt, but no degree.
“There needs to be a much bigger and bolder approach to the problem of higher education in this country,” says Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Will Bunch.
Bunch wrote the book “After the Ivory Tower Falls,” which is an examination of how college became out of reach for many Americans.
“I think any solution going forward has to address all of our young people and not just the half that are going off to college,” Bunch says. “I don't necessarily mean traditional college. I mean trade schools and I mean things like national civilian service programs.”
Both Brown Ruggia and Bunch say forgiving student debt doesn't address the underlying problem how massively expensive college is to attend.
“We all know the cost of higher education is tripled in the last few decades,” Brown Ruggia says. “We’ve got to bring the cost down. We don't want to be throwing money away. But we want to make sure that we have a highly educated workforce.”
The Republican National Committee blasted Biden’s move. They claim the timing is aimed to help Democrats in the midterm elections this November. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the decision is "cynical and outrageous."