What are the political benefits of student loans? : NPR

President Joe Biden speaks about student debt forgiveness in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Wednesday as Education Secretary Miguel Cardona listens to the right.

Evan Vucci / AP

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Evan Vucci / AP

President Joe Biden speaks about student debt forgiveness in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Wednesday as Education Secretary Miguel Cardona listens to the right.

Evan Vucci / AP

President Biden’s notification to forgive federal student debt of up to $10,000 and up to $20,000 to Pell Grant recipients ignited enthusiasm from progressive Democratic lawmakers. But the high cost of the plan has baffled some of the moderate Democratic candidates.

Wednesday’s announcement builds on momentum from Biden’s summer successes in passing major climate, healthcare and veterans rights legislation. And it comes just months before the midterm elections – at a time when Biden’s Approved rating was hovering around 38%, although according to a Gallup poll in the days immediately before the announcement, he is enjoying increased to 44%, the highest in a year.

The move impacts 43 million borrowers, and is particularly aimed at Black borrowers, who, on average, need more loans to pay for higher education and take longer to pay back than they do. with white people. Overall, it’s a politically popular decision.

“Democrats need this,” Andre Perry, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told NPR. “I’m inclined to believe that the policymakers will win the day. … We’re months away and Biden is building momentum at the right time.”

Republicans immediately voiced opposition to student debt forgiveness after Biden’s statement.

“President Biden’s student loan socialism is a slap in the face to every family that has sacrificed for college, every graduate to pay off debt, and every American who has chosen a career path best. or volunteer to serve in our Armed Forces to avoid incurring debt,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. “This policy is shockingly unfair.”

Biden has told Republicans he will not apologize for taking steps to help lower and middle-income Americans. And the White House continues to push their stance with a wave of tweet thread posted Thursday night, targeting Republican lawmakers who had taken out Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans earlier during the pandemic. However, those loans are not designed to return.

But skepticism doesn’t just come from the GOP. Moderate Democrats, especially those in tight races for the Senate this year, also expressed concern.

Ohio Senate candidate Rep. Tim Ryan, a Democrat, said Wednesday that the plan to send “wrong message” for Ohioans without a college degree. Ryan pits Trump-backed Republican J.D. Vance in one of the tightest Senate races in the country.

There is also the concern of how much the plan will cost

Another concern is absolute cost of student debt forgiveness. Estimates from the University of Pennsylvania suggests the plan could cost about $1 trillion.

Colorado Senator Michael Bennet, who is about to be re-elected, said Wednesday that the White House should have come up with a more targeted plan and a way to pay for it.

“While immediate relief for families is important, a one-time debt cancellation does not solve the underlying problem.” Bennet said. “In the future, we need to reform the system that got us here in the first place with solutions to reduce the irrational cost of college. …And we need to continue our work to build building a career path to economic security for every American, including those who choose not to pursue a two- or four-year degree.”

Bennet’s rival, Joe O’Dea, wrote in an email to supporters: “Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan does not erase the debt. It puts $300 billion of new debt on the backs of Americans. working. This debt is a national crisis.” This combines it. “

Some experts say it’s still a political victory for Biden

Despite objections from Republicans and some Democrats, Perry said the percentage of young voters voting on debt forgiveness would make an important difference in the election. And he added arguing that student loan forgiveness is “unfair” likely won’t turn voters against the candidate.

“It’s definitely energizing young people and people with student loan debt, including many Republicans. I think this will have a more unifying effect than any consequences,” Perry said. What negative politics will he have to face?

“Overall, it’s been a political victory for Biden because he’s delivering on his promises, he’s got a chance to reach some moderate Republicans who are in debt. … general issue.”

Perry also said that even groups and legislators are calling for cancel more debt would have to welcome Biden’s announcement and stay connected with the president, which he said was a “devious” move from the president.

Dominique Baker, professor at Southern Methodist University and education policy expert, says that while there isn’t enough research to say how this policy of cancellation will play out politically, previous research has shown that student loan forgiveness actually has a “material improvement” effect. substance” to people’s lives.

“We’ve found that people can more easily move around the country, they make more money, they can reduce default rates on things like credit cards and loans,” Baker said. other. “It seems like one of the best ways to manage is to try to do things to improve people’s lives and then make sure you’ve done things to improve their lives.”

Baker added that because Biden includes more debt forgiveness for Pell Grant recipients in particular, the benefits will extend more broadly to Black and Latinx borrowers.

And for some borrowers, it offers a glimmer of hope – and potentially an incentive to go to the polls.

Sean Wiggs, a junior at UNC Charlotte and digital strategist at Gen-Z for Change, told NPR: “This is like a glimmer of hope when everything else is not going as planned. .

With Biden’s announcement, Wiggs will be forgiven some of his debt, and he says it’s a good first step – and one that he thinks will spur his colleagues to vote.

“A lot of people might be indifferent to voting saying, hey, if the government really works for me, why don’t I vote?”

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