During his presidential campaign, President-elect Joe Biden released a progressive education plan that aims to make college more affordable for Americans. The plan includes extended coronavirus relief measures, free public college, and loan adjustments to ease student indebtedness.
American workers aspire to gain entry to the middle class but higher education is essential to becoming professionally competitive. However, earning a degree and repaying student loans have made true social mobility prohibitive for many seeking to lift themselves out of poverty.
The goal of Biden’s ambitious proposal is to reduce the widening gap between rich and poor as low-income households and student loan borrowers stand to gain substantially. Biden’s program lays out three main higher education initiatives.
Among the initiatives is to make public colleges and universities tuition-free for students whose families make less than $125,000. Under the proposal, students can attend community college for up to two years tuition-free.
A total of 23 states already have free community college programs and more planned to follow suit before the pandemic struck.
Experts say that while these measures exist, adopting them with a long-term mindset will undoubtedly change how students will pay for higher education.
“We believe free college tuition will become more popular because it will be an essential part of any economic recovery plan post-pandemic,” said Morley Winograd, President and CEO of the Campaign for Free College Tuition.
However, there are voices who oppose this policy, including incumbent Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. She said that eliminating college tuition costs is a “matter of total government control” and a “socialist takeover of higher education.” Others state that this move can only serve to worsen economic inequality as working-class taxpayers will bear the burden of paying the college expenses of both low-income and wealthy students.
Student Loan Forgiveness and Relief
As for the debilitating burden of student loans, Biden acknowledged the massive issues that loan holders face and has offered a plan to alleviate their burden.
First, an extension of pandemic financial relief will most likely be put forward. Under the Trump administration, most federal student loan payments and interest accrual have been postponed until December 31 and Biden will most likely extend this moratorium on loan payments.
Also, borrowers may see changes in how student loans are managed. With experts saying that reducing national student loan debt will have positive economic effects, the Biden administration may look into the possibility of forgiving $10,000 for each borrower.
The plan also stipulates that individuals earning $25,000 or less annually “will not owe payments on their undergraduate federal student loans and also won’t accrue any interest on those loans.”
Also included is a plan to simplify loan forgiveness programs and adjust qualifications for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program to help public sector workers.
Of course, there are those who believe that canceling student loan debt may not be the right priority. According to their thinking, total debt forgiveness may provide a greater advantage to wealthy students compared to targeted low-income beneficiaries. Borrowers who have paid off their debt before any such legislation is signed will also most likely cry foul.
Adjusting Pell Grants
Biden also seeks to adjust the maximum value of the Pell Grant, a type of federal financial aid for college students from low-income families. Currently, those who qualify can receive up to $6,345 but Biden might double this amount so students don’t have to add to their debt or pay for college at all.
While the thought of an affordable college education sounds promising, National Association for College Admission Counseling Executive Director David A. Hawkins implores everyone to continue to prepare the same as always. Families should still save money for college and maximize government financial aid programs as these initiatives are still at the development stage.