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Some recent students and graduates are hopeful that President Joe Biden could promote the forgiveness of federal student debt.
But Syracuse University economics and political science professors, Biden’s alma mater, are not only sure whether Biden will be able to cancel the student loan, but also whether it’s the right step to the country’s post-pandemic economic recovery.
“The argument for full forgiveness of (student) debt, or the argument that this forgiveness policy is a real economic tool, is waning after the pandemic,” said Alfonso Flores-Lagunes, professor of economics at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. .
Biden graduated from SU Law School in 1968 and maintained ties to the university throughout his political career, including returning to campus to give several speeches before and during his tenure as vice president. He ran for president on a platform focused on rebuilding the economy following the financial fallout from the pandemic and healing partisan divisions.
Biden’s platform included at least a partial forgiveness of the student loan. Biden officials confirmed on Jan. 8 that the president supports the cancellation of $ 10,000 in student debt per person as part of his COVID-19 relief plan. And on his first day in office, Biden extended an existing moratorium on student debt until September 30.
But the total cancellation of student loans – which would total $ 1.6 trillion – is unlikely to happen under Biden’s administration, although some more targeted policies may be successful, experts said.
In SU, the median federal student loan debt stands at $ 27,000 for those who have completed their undergraduate degrees, with 12% of students taking out private loans, according to American News and World Report.
Émilie Steinberger | Photo editor
The more progressive wing of the Democratic Party generally supports the complete cancellation of student loan debt, said Steven White, professor of political science at the Maxwell School. Although Biden has gone further on the matter, he still considers himself a moderate and is unlikely to seek to completely write off student debt, White said.
Biden is also likely to face strong resistance from Republicans, who have described student debt as unfair relief for people who have voluntarily taken out loans.
“Whether you have a college degree is increasingly a strong predictor of whether you are a Democrat or a Republican,” White said.
Biden’s administration will likely focus on giving partial student debt relief specifically to students who have taken out loans to attend public colleges, rather than expensive private colleges, White said.
“Most of the students in the country don’t go to private universities,” White said. “We don’t think college debt is a problem for these students, but it really is.”
A more moderate approach to debt relief also makes more economic sense, said Amy Schwartz, professor of economics at the Maxwell School.
Forgiving large amounts of student loan debt, while helpful to borrowers, may seem unfair to those who have made sacrifices to pay off their loans, Schwartz said. It can also create a dangerous incentive for students who otherwise would not have taken out loans to do so, in the hope that the government would step in and forgive them, creating a downward spiral, said Flores-Lagunes.
In addition to targeted debt relief, there are other policies the Biden administration could pursue to stem student debt in the United States, Flores-Lagunes said. These could include identifying students who took out loans to attend fraudulent for-profit colleges and working to make colleges more affordable so that students don’t go into debt in the first place.
“Forgiving some of this debt is good policy,” said Flores-Lagunes. “There is no doubt about it. ”
Posted on February 16, 2021 at 10:19 p.m.