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Biden’s First 100: Student Loan Relief?

By Isabel Pulgarin

President Joe Biden’s campaign agenda promised to make 62 major changes in his first 100 days in office. According to the Associated Press, with just a few weeks left, President Biden managed to fulfill 19 of these 62 promises, such as vaccinating 100 million Americans, and pausing evictions and foreclosures. Still, there are some promises left unkept.

Photo Credit to NDTV.com

Some major promises Biden fulfilled include rejoining the Paris climate accord, passing executive actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, easing federal unionizing restrictions, mandating masks on federal property, and ending the travel ban on major Muslim countries which was implemented by former President Trump.

Biden still has some promises in progress, including signing the Equality Act, which would ensure equal rights under the law for LGBTQ+ Americans, sending Congress a gun control bill and developing effective ways to enforce gun laws and reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act.

However, eight of the promises have been put on the backburner. According to the Associated Press, these include increasing corporate taxes, restricting background check loopholes when purchasing a gun, and taking steps toward making housing a right for all Americans.

Still, possibly the most important achievement for Barry students was Biden’s extension of the pause on student loan payments through Sept. 30, for both undergraduate and graduate students. This executive order was signed on his first day in office.

In addition, according to “The Biden Plan for Education Beyond High School” on the President’s campaign website, the Biden administration wants to make college more affordable and help support students with loan debt. Biden supports efforts to cancel $10,000 or less of undergraduate loans per person for COVID-19 relief. This would exclude graduate loan relief.

Graphic Credit to time.com

Biden would also like to broaden the scope and eligibility requirements for Pell Grants. To do so, he will double the grant’s current amount, $6,345 per student, to a maximum amount of $12,690. This will increase the number of families in the U.S. that will be eligible.

Finally, Biden plans to offer free college tuition to a four-year college to students whose family income is below $125,000. Free two-year grants could also become available to those attending private minority-serving colleges, as can two years free at community colleges.

Freshman criminology major, Armani Gearing, is grateful for Biden’s plan to assist students with loans. Gearing takes part in federal work study and has loans, scholarships, and grants helping her pay for school. While she wishes Biden would relieve a larger amount of debt, Gearing thinks Biden’s efforts seem like a “good idea.”

“For him to say, ‘yeah, I’m going to take it away if its $10,000 or less,’ is great because it leads a lot of people out of debt,” said Gearing.

Trevor Holden, a student who got his master’s degree in 2019, agrees and is waiting anxiously for Biden to decide whether he is cancelling the $10,000 in loans for students. Holden had taken out loans for graduate school, but they currently aren’t guaranteed under Biden’s loan cancellation proposal. However, he is still holding hope that graduate loans will be included.

Graphic Credit to The Wall Street Journal

“I basically haven’t made any payments on my [graduate] loans because I am waiting to see if he does cancel $10,000, because if you make payments now, you might end up hurting yourself,” Holden advised.

During this waiting period, Holden has experienced much anxiety, fearing that interest rates will accumulate while he waits until September to pay his loans.

Despite Holden’s hope about the loans, he is skeptical of Biden’s “very complicated” plan to make public college free. He pointed out that high school is free to attend, but that comes at the expense of teachers’ salaries.

“When you get to college, the professors obviously are paid much more and [tuition] is how they’re able to fund all of that,” said Holden. He added that this allows colleges to be luxurious and well-maintained.

Dr. Sean Foreman, the chair of the department of history and political science at Barry, supports the plans for loan relief and free college.

“If we can move toward more need-based and merit-based grants, which you do not have to pay back, and move away from the need for people to borrow so much in student loans, that can help to change the balance,” said Foreman.

With 19 promises fulfilled, 35 promises in progress, and eight promises on hold, Barry students are patiently awaiting this change in balance as President Biden continues to work on keeping the promises his campaign proposed.