Million people sign petition calling on Biden to cancel student debt
Austin Hossfeld and his wife, Hayley.
Photo: Austin Hossfeld
Every day Austin Hossfeld types the same words into Google: “Biden” and “student loans”.
“A lot of times it’s the same items,” said Hossfeld, 26. “I read them again.
“At night, I tell my wife about it.”
Like so many other Americans, the Carroll, Ohio resident is eager to hear new information on what President Joe Biden decides to do, if anything, about the outstanding student loan balance of $ 1, $ 7 trillion from the country. Recently, Hossfeld’s online research led him to a Change.org petition calling on the president to write off all that debt.
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He signed it. So have over a million other people.
“It’s obvious to help the lives of millions of people,” he said.
During the election campaign, Biden said he supported the cancellation of $ 10,000 in student loans for all borrowers, but more recently he asked his secretary of education to prepare a note on his legal authority for erase up to $ 50,000 each for all. This is after facing mounting pressure from other Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, to go further.
Increasingly, borrowers are also among those asking for forgiveness from the president.
Erin O’Brien, associate professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, said the petition is likely to attract the attention of the White House.
“Numbers matter,” O’Brien said. “This is what moves politicians.”
Polls show that two-thirds of Americans support some form of student loan forgiveness. However, only 4 in 10 think all debt should be forgiven.
Critics of the student loan forgiveness argue it would not significantly boost the economy, as college graduates tend to be higher earners who would likely redirect their monthly payments to savings rather than additional expenses. Others say a jubilee would be unfair to those who have already paid off their student loan debt or have never taken out a loan. These borrowers “might think their frugality was being punished,” Bloomberg columnist Noah Smith recently wrote.
Supporters say borrowers were already struggling before the public health crisis – with more than one in four defaulting or defaulting – and after more than a year of record unemployment , this pain only got worse.
“Before the start of the Covid-19 public health crisis, student debt was already a drag on the national economy, weighing most heavily on black and Latin communities, as well as on women”, more than 400 organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Civil Liberties Union Psychological Association, wrote in a letter to the White House in April.
“The cancellation of the administrative debt will allow real progress to be made on your priorities for racial equity, economic recovery and the Covid-19 relief campaign.”
Hossfeld and his wife, Hayley, have student debt of approximately $ 50,000.
He graduated from Dominican University in Ohio in 2017 with a degree in computer science and now works as a technician in a lab. He finds the job boring and wants to become a teacher instead.
But he’s afraid to go back to school and get into more debt.
“I feel stuck,” he says.
He and his wife would love to have a child as well, but fear they won’t be able to afford child care and health costs when they have to invest $ 800 a month for their student loans.
“Talk about a stimulus,” Hossfeld said, if Biden canceled their debt.
“Eight hundred dollars more a month, for me that would be amazing,” he said. “It would allow me to start a family and get a different job.
“I dream about it.”
“ It was really depressing ”
Christine Angelique of Portland, Oregon, signed the Change.org petition after her mother forwarded it to her.
The balance of his student debt is over $ 168,000.
Since Angelique graduated with an interior design degree from the Art Institute of Portland in 2010, she has not been able to land a full-time job. The for-profit college chain has come under fire for misleading students about their programs and career outcomes.
“I ended up working a lot of part-time and seasonal jobs,” said Angélique, 43. “It was really depressing.”
In 2017, she filed for bankruptcy because of her credit card debt, which she said she had accumulated to cover bills and essentials without a regular and adequate paycheck. She was unable to repay her student loans as part of the proceedings.
Things have only gotten worse in the coronavirus pandemic. She was fired from her job at a hotel in March 2020 and has since been fired. Some of his student loans are now in arrears.
Six-figure debt leaves her desperate, even though she knows she is not alone.
“I even said to my mother, ‘I wouldn’t be surprised if there was an increase in suicides,’” she said. “It’s just the way you feel trapped.
“How can you get on with your life with this kind of debt?”