Student Loan Debt Relief

by Albert B. Kelly, Mayor, City of Bridgeton

For most of my life, there was a belief in this country that the next generation would do better than the one that came before it. The idea was to hand something down to your children and their children so that each successive generation would have it just a little better than the previous one.

The key to all of it was education. Education was about building a basic foundation of competency among all citizens. Education was at the heart of equality as well. From preschool through grade 12, the idea was to equip people with the tools to function and participate in the life of the country.

The real golden ticket was higher education. It wasn’t always that way. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, heading into the Second World War, only 8.4 percent of young people 18 to 24 years old enrolled in college. This is understandable as many went off to war.

Things changed after the war. In 1950, the percentage of 18- to 24-year-olds enrolled in college was 14.3 percent. That number jumped to 23.6 percent in 1960 and continued climbing to 35.8 percent in 1970, growing to 40.2 percent in 1980. It passed the 50 percent mark with 51.1 percent in 1990.

Enrollment was built on access and affordability. Consider that until the mid-1960s the City College system in New York was free and the same held true in California. What wasn’t free was affordable. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 1970 the average in-state tuition and fees for one year at a public non-profit university was $394.

But increasing cost is why young people 18 to 24 years old attending college is trending down. Just 42 percent are now enrolled and who can blame them. According to educationdata.org, the average cost of attendance for a student living on campus at a public four-year in-state institution is $25,707 per year or $102,828 over four years. Out-of-state students will pay on average $43,421 per year or $173,684 over four years. If you are like 96.6 percent of all those who earn a bachelor’s degree, you will likely earn it in six years, not four years and if you do, the price of your education will rise to approximately $213,306.

That’s why supporting the administration’s one-time federal student loan debt relief program (studentaid.gov ) is critical and the hope is that the courts will uphold this program. Right now, it’s on pause, but the administration is encouraging applications regardless. If eligible, you could get a full or partial discharge up $20,000.

The program won’t help those with private student loan debt. But if you have certain federal student loans, you should apply.

According to the website, consolidation loans are also eligible for relief so long as all of the underlying loans that were consolidated were ED-held loans and were disbursed on or before June 30, 2022.

Eligibility is also tied to tax filing status. If single and earning under $125,000; married, filing separately under $125,000; married filing jointly under $250,000; head of household under $250,000; or qualifying widow(er) under $250,000, you should apply. You’ll need to meet the income criteria for either 2020 or 2021, but you don’t need to meet it for both years.

If education is the golden ticket, spending 20 years paying off student loan debt has to change.

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