CLEVELAND — President Biden Wednesday announced a plan that would reduce student loan debt by up to $10,000 for Americans making under $125,000 a year, or $250,000 for married couples.
Since 1980, the White House reports the total cost of both four-year public and four-year private college has nearly tripled even after accounting for inflation. Federal support has not kept up: Pell Grants once covered nearly 80% of the cost of a four-year public college degree for students from working families, but now only cover a third.
That has left many students from low- and middle-income families with no choice but to borrow if they want to get a degree. According to a Department of Education analysis, the typical undergraduate student with loans now graduates with nearly $25,000 in debt.
On the campus of Cleveland State University students like Angela Williams of Cleveland welcomed the news.
"I feel like it gives relief for people that actually need it," Williams said.
Ana Crangle of Tallmadge said that would cover the remainder of her freshman year's tuition. "My college choice was 100% based on financials and how much it was going to cost where I was going, and it's nice to know that somebody is looking to lower that cost for us," said Crangle.
Not all agree.
"You took out a student loan, you should pay your student loan just like you take out a loan on an automobile or you take a mortgage on a home," said Mark Davis of Wickliffe. Years ago, he said he made the decision to take up a trade rather than incur the debt of college, and he says he shouldn't have to pay for the debt of others.
"Now you got somebody who did take out a student loan who says why should I have to pay for it if somebody else is willing to take up the slack?" Davis said.
Simpson Huggins of Cleveland says his college debts are already paid so it wouldn't benefit him, but it would benefit his daughter, and he'd like to see more done to help young Black students who, statistics show, carry a greater load of debt. Twenty years after first enrolling in school, the typical Black borrower who started college in the 1995-96 school year still owed 95% of their original student debt.
"Minority students, they have to work twice as hard to get twice as many degrees in order to compete so that would be a benefit for them," said Huggins.
Still others like Mike Bitsko of Parma wished it did more to address the root problem of why college costs have risen so dramatically. He went to college at a time when kids could pay for school by working summers and odd jobs compared to the mountains of debt they graduate with today.
"It would be something that I would not want to undertake coming out of college," said Bitsko.
The White House said for the most vulnerable borrowers, the effects of debt are even more crushing. Nearly one-third of borrowers have debt but no degree, according to an analysis by the Department of Education of a recent cohort of undergraduates. Many of these students could not complete their degrees because the cost of attendance was too high. About 16% of borrowers are in default - including nearly a third of senior citizens with student loa debt - which can result in the government garnishing a borrower’s wages or lowering a borrower’s credit score.