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Affordable college does not stop at forgiving student loans

For many college students, President Joe Biden’s recent announcement concerning student loan forgiveness was heaven-sent. With over 7.6 million borrowers under the age of 24 racking up over $110 billion dollars in debt, student loan forgiveness is a step in the right direction. However, forgiving a set amount of student loans will not fix the foundational issue: affordable and accessible education. 

Students and graduates have had their loan repayment on pause since the start of the global pandemic in 2020. Some took that pause as a way to pay off their loans and avoid any setbacks if and when repayment returned. Others placed their faith in the chance of student loan forgiveness. For the last two years, this waiting has paid off. 

Studies show that student loan forgiveness is bipartisan, with approximately 80% of Democrats and 45% of Republicans supporting loan forgiveness and debt relief. However, many Americans believe that a complete overhaul of the system needs to happen, or the cycle of debt will repeat itself for the next generation.

Jillianne Wright-Baker, a 2012 Computer Science graduate from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, agrees, “I graduated ten years ago with minimal student loans; I am one of the lucky ones. However, I would like to point out that if I did not have access to finances, I’d be in the same situation as a lot of our graduates today. I am happy that some things are happening, but I have to say that it seems temporary. The problem is the amount of money being asked of students. President Biden’s plan should address that.”

Li Grahn, a sophomore focusing on political science, believes that student loan forgiveness won’t fix the real issue. “ If I can be honest, many people throw buzzwords around, but the problem still remains once you clear all that glitter away. Acknowledging why we have such a high percentage of students unable to pay student loans is important. Society pushes college on students who might dwell better at a trade or community college. Please do not take that as a slight. A craftsman might just be more financially stable than I ever will be. But I chose this. I wanted to go into this field. I was able to have access to resources, including a financial support system, before deciding to go to college. Sadly, some people do not have that luxury and end up hundreds of thousands in debt without room for growth.”

College and university tuition for an undergraduate student in the United States is roughly $142,000 over four years. The annual average salary of college graduates is $55,000. These figures might seem slightly unnerving, but when coupled with the fact that more than 50% of college students drop out because of student loan debt and financial strain, it is clear how deep-seated this issue truly is.  

Jayson Renderos, a Junior and Economics major, shares his journey and advice, saying, “Before UMBC, I went to community college to save on tuition. Community college was a lifesaver in terms of money but also personal growth. I met lifelong friends and participated in numerous activities. I do not think I would have had that if I’d first gone to a four-year university. UMBC has clubs and a social circle, but I’d be too busy to participate. I would worry about money and paying my tuition instead of focusing on my grades and family.”

Most students struggle to balance life, family, work and school without adequate resources or support programs to help. In 2019, a survey found that over 30% of university students faced housing insecurity, and 3.3 million college students nationwide were eligible for food assistance due to financial and food insecurity. 

College is stressful enough, but having to worry about where you’ll find your next meal or where you can lay your head can be simply unbearable. 

Along with scarce resources, incoming students are bombarded with predatory loans and harassed once they are out of college. Many students on income-based repayment plans are met with complex fine print and ultimatums. According to a report by CNN, “Navient (a student loan provider) steered student loan borrowers into forbearance rather than directing them to enroll in low-cost repayment plans. As a result, some of these borrowers fell deeper into debt as interest accrued.” 

Rising tuition costs, predatory actions of companies and systemic issues plaguing students today all contribute to the cycle of America’s educational debt crisis. Without addressing these issues, we will still have this conversation decades later.

Debt relief is just one portion of the puzzle. To make college affordable and accessible to all, we must rebuild the foundation from the ground up. We must tackle the rising cost of college and provide students with the necessary resources to be healthy and secure at university. 

The student loan forgiveness program Biden announced opens for most in October 2022.

Shanika Freeman is a senior INDS major and Opinions Editor. Contact Shanika at