LOUISVILLE, Ky. – When Marley Pomplun completes her graduate studies at the University of Louisville next summer, she expects to have around $ 100,000 in student debt. “I joked with people that I will probably pay it until the day I die,” Pomplun told Spectrum News 1. “It’s terrifying.”
But relief could come from President-elect Joe Biden. The new Democratic president presented a handful of in a plan to reform the student debt system. The most publicized of these is a $ 10,000 per person federal student debt cancellation plan.
The move, which Biden intends to ask Congress to approve in its first week, would write off the debt of more than 15 million Americans, according to federal data. Another 9.2 million would see their debt reduced by more than half.
It is often the people with the least debt who need the most help paying them off. According to the Institute for College Access and Success, people with less than $ 10.00 in federal student debt are more likely to default on their loans than those with more. It is often because they did not finish college and do not have the ability to earn money from those who did.
Biden’s plan also includes a new loan cancellation program for civil servants. It would provide $ 10,000 in federal student debt relief for each year of “national or community service,” with a cap of $ 50,000.
As a social worker, Pomplun would benefit from this provision. “In my situation, I feel like it’s not enough, but I’m grateful for any help, whatever it is,” she said. “Because I’m a social worker, I’m not going to earn $ 100,000 a year or even close to that. So everything is beneficial.
Pomplun is one of 43 million Americans and 585,000 Kentuckians struggling with student debt. The country’s student debt burden has inflated to over 1.7 trillion, twice as many as ten years ago. Kentuckians owe $ 19.1 billion of that total and those numbers are growing every year.
The problem is so big that some of Biden’s Democratic colleagues don’t think his plan is enough. Last month, Senators Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren called on Biden to eliminate $ 50,000 in debt per person. They also argued that he did not need congressional approval to do so. “The President of the United States has the power to widely write off student loan debt, help close the racial wealth gap and give families and our economy a big boost,” Warren said . said in a press release. “It’s time to use this existing authority and continually improve the lives of tens of millions of Americans.”
Jennifer McDaniels is one of those Americans. At 47, the former newspaper reporter is studying, or “retraining” to become a teacher in Harlan, Kentucky.
“There are a lot of recycling programs here that I know of to cover the plight of the coal miners in eastern Kentucky,” she said. “They are encouraged to retrain and find a new vocation and that’s what I do. What I trained for is just not here anymore.
McDaniels sees debt relief for the public service as an incentive for people like her to enter a new profession without leaving home, which she has been encouraged to do but has always resisted.
Between his previous undergraduate studies and his current master’s program, McDaniels faces six-figure debt. “My biggest fear is, once I retrain and have my new career, what I have to face to pay off,” she said.
According to Biden’s proposal, she would see her debt burden significantly reduced after teaching for five years. “It would be an answer to prayer,” she said.
She may also be eligible for the Public Service Loan forgiveness program, which requires you to be in a skilled job, make payments for 10 years, and get approval from the federal government, which was not always easy to find.
For Carmellia Jackson, student debt relief would allow her to live the life she can’t wait to begin. Within months of completing social work studies at the University of Louisville, she also intends to work in an area of public service that would allow her to take advantage of a loan forgiveness.
This is a big deal given the $ 100,000 debt she is anticipating. “I’m about to start my family and move into a house, so that would make a huge difference,” she said.
For others, debt relief could allow them to participate in the simple pleasures of life, like setting up a savings account and taking the occasional vacation, she said. It could also allow people to make choices that prioritize their ambitions over their financial obligations.
“Once you have financial freedom, it opens up a lot of doors and opportunities for you to pursue your dreams,” Jackson said.