Op-ed: ‘The breathing room America needs is student loan debt forgiveness’

A bachelor’s degree is supposed to grant economic security and more job prospects. The opposite is happening

click to enlarge Karoll Marroni, left, works with Poder Latinx, a civic and social justice nonprofit organization advocating for the Latinx community. - Photo courtesy Karoll Marroni
Photo courtesy Karoll Marroni
Karoll Marroni, left, works with Poder Latinx, a civic and social justice nonprofit organization advocating for the Latinx community.

Student loans are a trillion-dollar industry.

The United States currently has a student loan debt total of $1.7 trillion between over 45 million borrowers.

When the Biden administration launched the student loan debt forgiveness application, over 26 million individuals across the 50 states applied for relief.

While the cost of everything increases, student loans have consistently become more predatory as the cost of higher education becomes more and more inflated.

In 2022, I filed my application for forgiveness and requested a refund for all the payments that I had made during the eligibility period. While still in school, I paid my tuition payments each semester in cash while also paying off the student loans I had taken out during my first two years of college.

I decided that I did not want to fight to stay ahead of my payments when I graduated, as my subsidized student loans would begin accumulating an exorbitant amount of interest. I put entire paychecks into these payments and even made the decision to live at home with my family while attending school to cut costs.

These created a difference between saving up for my future and avoiding mounting debt.

My student loan forgiveness application was pre-approved and I received a check in the mail for all the payments I had made during the months-long pause on federal student debt bills. That very check still sits on my desk in its envelope as the student loan forgiveness program is held up in the Supreme Court waiting for a ruling on its legality.

Will I be able to cash it in or be forced to log back into my Federal Student Aid account to pay my loans again?

Growing up in a Hispanic household, my responsibilities became a mantra: go to school, get a job, and make a life for myself. It was my family's belief that doing this would inherently make me a success story in the American Dream.

But this process is not linear. The cost of getting an education has been a major bump in the road. When FAFSA stated that my household had an income high enough that I did not qualify for need-based federal financial aid, that meant that I would have to self-fund my degree.

At first, I failed to understand the weight of what that meant or that I would have to work while going to school. While a bachelor’s degree is supposed to give graduates economic security and more job prospects, the opposite is happening for many borrowers.

The average graduate ends up with $31,500 in student loans, and that number vastly increases the longer they are out of school. We are struggling to gain an economic foothold knowing the student loan payments moratorium is officially ending soon and the cost of living is dramatically rising.

If the Supreme Court strikes down the student loan forgiveness program later this year, I will have to re-evaluate my future. I will have to pick between going to graduate school, becoming a homeowner, and other important milestones in my life. I should not have to choose.

President Biden’s economic initiatives have always been aimed at creating “a little more breathing room” for American families. Student loan debt forgiveness is the breathing room we need.

The Supreme Court must decide in favor of student loan borrowers. Millions of Americans need this to move on to the next chapter of their lives.

Karoll Marroni is the Communications Associate for Poder Latinx, a civic and social justice nonprofit organization advocating for the Latinx community. She is a 22-year-old Latina, a student loan borrower currently studying at the University of Central Florida, and a full-time worker living in Kissimmee.

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