‘A patronisingly small amount’: Guardian readers on Biden’s student loan relief plan

The president has announced plans to cancel $10,000 in debt for millions of borrowers – but has he gone far enough?

Joe Biden has announced student loan debt relief of up to $10,000 for millions of US graduates, fulfilling a campaign promise.

The US Department of Education will provide up to $10,000 in debt cancellation and up to $20,000 in debt cancellation to Pell Grant recipients. The move pleased many, angered Republicans, and left some feeling it had not gone far enough.

Here, some US graduates share their views on the plan and what it means for them.

‘$10,000 is a patronisingly small amount’

Ben Greenberg

It cost me $400,000 of debt for the chance to complete my degree. And the interest keeps accruing. $10,000 is a patronisingly small amount for the staggering cost of education in this country. Biden’s relief should have been a percentage, at a minimum of 15%. There is much more he could have done to address victims of the system such as myself and those with graduate degrees who had to finance their own education and were unable to work due to academic demands or disability. Ben Greenberg, 42, psychologist, New Mexico

‘This is going to be a gamechanger’


This is going to be a gamechanger for me as an American in the UK, where I’ve lived for the last five years. I received Pell grants for my undergraduate teaching degree and am sitting with about $16,000 balance after going to George Mason University, a state school in northern Virginia. Before leaving for the UK, the debt was terrifying, and, honestly, I’ve ignored it, knowing that it was a ghost that would haunt me if I ever moved back to America. I’m currently thriving in the UK – I work for the NHS and am going to graduate school to qualify as an allied health professional.

The American student loan debt is the main reason I felt like I couldn’t go back to America, even if I wanted to. Times have already been difficult; I graduated in 2008, right before the first recession, and was never able to get on to the property ladder, was never able to get real promotions, as they froze teacher pay for four years in my county, and have never been stable enough to even consider starting a family.

The debt relief would wipe out all my remaining loan balances for undergraduate school and make an immense difference. As an expat, I don’t yet know if I’m going to be unable to qualify for some clerical reason – but if it comes through, it’ll be fantastic. Chantel, 38, Canterbury, Kent

‘It’s a good start’


I have a BA in English and philosophy from Salem State University, and an MA in philosophy from Brandeis University. The $10,000 to $20,000 cancellation of student loans is a good start, but that’s all that it is: a start. It will certainly improve the lives of many borrowers, but as someone with nearly $50,000 in student loan debt, I think that this cancellation will not drastically change my situation once the debt payment freeze ends. In this, I don’t think I am alone.

I have a full-time, benefited position as a librarian, and, already, my wife (who also works full-time) and I don’t always find it easy to make rent at the end of the month for our modest apartment that we share with a roommate. That we are still expected to take out tens of thousands of dollars in loans in order to pay for an education is insult to injury. Jeremy Mele, 27, librarian, Salem, Massachusetts

‘Biden’s student loan relief policy does nothing for me or thousands of others’


Biden’s student loan relief policy does nothing for me or the thousands of others who chose to refinance their student loans with private lenders. For years, I put up with crushing interest rates on the federal Income-Based Repayment plan, believing my years of full-time non-profit work would qualify me for Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

But I didn’t qualify: I had the wrong loan type, which my loan servicer did not point out to me when I asked if I qualified. Rather than continue to pay 7.5% interest on my debt, I refinanced at a lower rate and tried to cut my losses. I’m happy so many people will experience some relief, but Biden’s policy doesn’t fix the source of the rot: a financial system that profits from our precarity. Ingrid Haftel, 38, working at a non-profit, Brooklyn

‘I owe $317,000’


I’m sure Biden’s new plan is a relief for some, but after two MA degrees and a PhD, I owe an eye-watering $317,000. I was fortunate enough to graduate without debt after my BA, but an MA in New York at FIT, a reasonably priced state school, and then two degrees in the UK, at Durham and King’s College London, cost a fair bit. I was unable to get funding in the UK, but I studied modern British history, so it was important to work there. My employment qualifies for the PSLF program, but I have five years left before my loans will be forgiven.

The $10,000 doesn’t lift my financial burden, and is just part of the large amount the government will forgive when I finally reach the required 120 payments for the PSLF program. I make $65,500 per year in a field where jobs are few and far between. My payments are based on my income, but I fear the day when payments are reinstated.

My budget is already stretched so thin; I’m stressed about it every day. I live simply and frugally, and on my birthday last year I couldn’t even afford Chinese takeout. How on earth am I going to get by when payments resume? I’m especially concerned that even if I were able to save and afford a house, I would not receive the financing that I need because of my student debt. Ann, 42, Seattle, university art gallery curator, Washington


Alfie Packham and Guardian readers

The GuardianTramp

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