Pro/Con: Student loan debt forgiveness


After months of legal setbacks, millions of Americans are awaiting a ruling from the United States Supreme Court on a student loan debt forgiveness program brought forward by the Biden Administration. 

Announced in August, U.S. President Joe Biden promised $10,000 in student loan forgiveness for borrowers making less than $125,000 a year and $20,000 for students who received Pell Grants, a federal grant given to low-income students. 

While the battle over the legality of student loan forgiveness continues, Biden’s program has raised other questions around the cost of higher education and how a plan to address student debt should fit into the long-standing equity debate in education. While forgiving student loan debt fails to address the root of the problem—increasingly high tuition costs—it is a step in the right direction that will help more than 40 million Americans, according to the Biden administration.

Firstly, the cost of college education has increased disproportionately to the federal aid available to students. While the cost of four-year college more than doubled in the past 20 years, the maximum amount of money offered by Pell Grants has only increased by 20%. In the 1970s, Pell Grants covered 75% of the cost of a public four-year college, compared to just 25% now, according to the Washington Post. 

By effectively reducing the amount of aid available to students amid rising education costs, the federal government has put graduates who left school with debt behind their wealthier peers. 

As reported by the Biden Administration, 90% of forgiveness will go to Americans earning less than $75,000 a year. While those in the upper end of this income range may not feel drastic effects from the $300 a month offered by the plan, it could greatly benefit those in the lower end by expanding their life choices, including options to buy a home and start a business, which will, in the long run, benefit the economy.

However, some critics warn that a hypothetical increase in spending by those forgiven of debt will stoke inflation, which is nearly at its highest rate in 40 years, according to the U.S. Labor Department. In reality, economists say that because student loans were already on pause for more than two years due to the pandemic, debt forgiveness will not cause mass spending or any subsequent increases in costs. 

Admitting that it would help many Americans, some then argue that debt relief disenfranchises those who did not attend college due to financial limits or those who already paid off their debts. 

While student debt forgiveness will only affect those who currently have debt, there will continue to be those who cannot afford to pursue a college education and those who need to save to pay off their debts. Until a plan to address high tuition costs is put in place, student debt forgiveness is an immediate remedy to those affected by reduced need-based financial aid and those who lost their jobs during the pandemic.

Pertinent to the current productivity of Americans and revolutionary when accompanied by more long-term education reforms, this debt relief program is a major step towards a more equitable education system.


On Dec. 1, the Supreme Court said it would hear oral arguments concerning President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness program, leaving millions of Americans anxiously waiting for a decision. 

Back in August, the Biden Administration announced a three-part plan in hopes of alleviating the cost of college and making the student loan system more manageable for working families. The plan included up to $10,000 in debt cancellation to people making less than $125,000 and up to $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients—a federal grant given to low income undergraduate students. 

As legal battles have progressed, the Biden administration’s plan to reduce student debt has raised a multitude of questions surrounding the status of student debt in this country. While this plan would improve the living standards for more than 40 million Americans, according to the Biden administration, it fails to target valuable resources towards the individuals in our country who need it the most and does not address the problem of student debt from its root.

One of the many concerns of the plan is that it does not benefit the people in the country who need it most. According to The Brookings Institution, almost a third of all student debt is owed by the wealthiest 20% of households and only 8% by the bottom 20%. A large share of student debt is owned by educated, white, financially secure students, meaning that broad debt relief policies like this one, although they may appear to be progressive, are not actually targeted at the people who really need support and resources. Compared to the current poverty line in the U.S., $23,030-a-year for three people in a household, the $125,000-a-year cap detailed in the plan is far too high and encompasses a large portion of individuals who do not truly need the resources provided by the plan.

Oftentimes, the individuals who are in need of the most resources in the country do not take out student loans to begin with, knowing they cannot pay them back. According to the Education Data Initiative, in 2022, 58.4% of student loans were taken out by middle-income students. 

Looking at the financial position of the majority of individuals taking out student loans, it is clear that Biden’s plan will not consider disadvantaged communities and address the root factors that influence their decisions to take or not take out loans. According to NPR, it is projected to cost $400 billion over the next 30 years, yet these resources fail to effectively address the root problem of expensive education. Furthermore, the individuals most affected by these costs– those not taking out student loans because of their financial situation– will not receive any of the benefits that the plan would offer.  

Though Biden’s plan has good intentions, it fails to correct the educational system from the inside out as it does not explicitly do anything long-term to make higher education more affordable and ensure that students do not end up in a position of needing their debt relieved in the first place. While this plan would improve the living standards of 40 million Americans, it is crucial to consider the financial positions of that group’s majority, and how many people who truly need support in the country are not included in it.

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