ORLANDO, Fla. — Following the Biden administration’s announcement that up to $20,000 would be forgiven for each person who received a federally-backed student loan, conservatives and liberal activists found themselves in an unusual position: agreeing.
For many Republicans, the idea that Biden would use taxpayer money to reduce the loan burden carried by relatively few college-educated workers was another misuse of money and a handout to the so-called “elites.”
“Eighty-five percent of Americans don’t have a student loan,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said during a rally in Geneva Wednesday. “I had a student loan. I had to pay it off.”
Student loan activists, many from progressive-aligned groups, also decried Biden’s decision, but for another reason: the forgiveness didn’t go far enough.
“Statistically, Black women own an average of $44,000 in debt, versus a lot of people say, ‘Oh, the average buyer only owes about 30k,’” activist Jamie Turner, a recent graduate, said as she called the practice of student loans predatory. “Their loans are already in their name to begin with. Their parents weren’t even able to put those in their name.”
Turner and many Democrats wanted Biden to forgive $50,000 per person without income limits. The president’s executive action caps forgiveness to people who earned less than $125,000 last year.
Turner, whose $20,000 in loans were forgiven by a celebrity’s donation after she graduated, cited the massive increase to college tuition when asked to respond to Republicans’ complaint.
“It was cheaper to go to school 10 years ago than it was now,” she said, before referencing the cost of housing and other situations faced by new graduates.
There is truth to that beyond inflation. In 1984, in-state tuition for a typical UCF undergraduate class hovered between $25 to $28 per credit hour, according to a brochure archived by the university’s library system. Tuition rates this year are $105 per credit hour, a 303% increase.
Historical price index data calculates that the value of a dollar rose 185% during that same time period, roughly in line with wage growth.
President Biden shot down any dreams of him canceling $50,000 per borrower early on in his consideration process.
To naysayers on the other end of the spectrum who said his action was unfair to people who didn’t have student loans, he asked if they had a similar problem with the way President Trump’s tax breaks doled out discounts to the wealthy.
“Is it fair to the people who, in fact, do not own multi-million businesses and see these guys getting all the tax breaks?” he asked.
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