Policymakers from Oregon greeted warmly President Biden’s move to reduce or even wipe out their student loan debt as well as freeze loan repayments until Dec. 31, and weighed in on what that means for a majority of students in the state.
Wednesday’s decision, which only affects current borrowers, benefits mostly middle- and low-income individuals and families. It is estimated more than 12,000 Oregonians already have been identified as eligible and may be helped out as a result.
Addressing wealth inequality
“The President’s action will completely eliminate student debt for millions of borrowers and reduce the outstanding balance for millions more. Borrowers of color are more likely to qualify for Pell Grants, so this relief is an important step toward addressing generational wealth inequality,” said U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Oregon, in a statement.
“The President’s announcement is the most far-reaching in a long list of actions taken by the Biden administration to support student borrowers, reform the federal student loan system, and make our nation’s colleges and universities more affordable. To date, this administration has approved $32 billion in loan forgiveness for about 1.6 million borrowers nationwide who have worked in public service, attended institutions engaged in fraudulent practices, and more,” she said.
“Borrowers across Oregon are benefitting from this proactive approach to addressing the student debt crisis. The Department of Education’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) waiver identified 2,050 Oregonians holding $120.2 million in federal student loans for forgiveness. The Department also approved $102.5 million in loan forgiveness for an additional 8,650 Oregon borrowers who were defrauded by the predatory and misleading tactics of Corinthian Colleges, Inc. The Department also provided forgiveness of outstanding student loan debt held by 2,090 Oregon borrowers who attended the predatory institution ITT Tech between 2005-2016. These three actions alone amount to nearly $260 million in financial relief for Oregonians.”
Smoothing the path to dreams
U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, shared his thoughts on his personal experience.
“As the son of blue-collar parents and the first in my family to graduate from college, I know firsthand that affordability is a huge factor in whether middle-class students believe there is a path for them to pursue their dreams through higher education. And I know that for many low-income students who graduate with enormous debt, that debt is a burden that affects job opportunities, home ownership, starting a business, and plans for marriage or for starting a family.
“Thus, I strongly support President Biden’s decision to extend the pause on loan repayment and to cancel $10,000 of debt for the majority of borrowers, and up to $20,000 for Pell grant recipients. This decision will eliminate or reduce college debt for millions of Americans, improving opportunities, and stimulating our economy. This is welcome news!
“While I applaud this action, let’s view it not as a solution for college debt, but as a down payment on the solution, a catalyst for further reforms. For every American child to have the opportunity to thrive, we must make college an affordable option for all. I will continue to pursue more sweeping reforms, from free community college tuition to legislation like my Affordable Loans for Any Student Act that guarantees affordable, simple income-based repayment plans for any federal loan borrower. Affordable college for every student will produce a more prosperous future for all.”
Unlocking the shackles of debt
In a tweet, U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, commented, “Pursuing an education shouldn’t land you in financial handcuffs. This is great news for every American being forced to make hard decisions between paying off their student loans and putting food on the table. I’ll continue pushing for student debt relief at every turn.”
By Ariana Figueroa of Press Partner Oregon Capital Chronicle.