Opposition to Biden’s Student Debt Plan: Yet Another Case of Polarized Politics


As you may have seen on the news or through the President’s media outreach, the Biden administration announced that $10,000 of student debt for around 43 million borrowers will be forgiven, as well as an additional $10,000 for Pell Grant recipients. The debt forgiveness is limited to singles earning under $125,000 and married couples jointly earning under $250,000. The administration also extended pauses on monthly payments. Reactions to the action were mixed; democrats supported the President whereas the Republicans did the opposite. Yet, reasoning from the right has been extremely flawed. 

One of the main points of the conservative argument is the impact student loan forgiveness would have on inflation. In an opinion article on Fox News, North Carolina Senator Richard Burr wrote, “The Biden administration’s policies on federal student loans are only making inflation worse.” Senator Burr’s claim is inaccurate as data show evidence of the contrary. Goldman Sachs economists reported that “debt forgiveness that lowers monthly payments is slightly inflationary in isolation, but the resumption of payments is likely to more than offset this.” 

Another form of flawed reasoning used by conservative figures is to point toward their experiences in “working their way to college.” The average age of a Republican in the U.S. Senate is 63. Although it is by no means a bad thing to work hard to pay off your loans, it is misleading to use fallacies to falsely balance the economics of today and that of decades ago. In 1977, which is roughly around the time the average Republican Senator would have started college, the average cost of tuition per year and required fees for a public four-year institution was $655 dollars ($3,202 when adjusted for inflation). To put this number into perspective, the minimum wage in 1977 was $2.30 (when adjusted for inflation, equivalent to $11.30 today), and paying off the cost of this payment would take roughly 7 weeks of full-time work. When compared, today’s statistics are outrageous; the same cost of tuition and fees per year for in-state four-year institutions is $10,557. Paired with a minimum wage of $7.25, it would take 36 weeks of full-time work to pay the costs of a year of tuition off. These previously mentioned numbers attempt to place inflation in perspective, but the truth is that they are unable to fully comprehend how financially difficult the pandemic has made higher education for students. Additional costs such as healthcare, housing, insurance, books/education materials, additional costs for law/medical degree, and other variables pile up and demonstrate a need for the government to respond. In total, it is extremely negligent for Republicans to make outlandish statements without fully understanding facts that make the current market for college students much more financially straining. Yet, there is a good chance that they do understand what students are facing. 

 The typical member of Congress has a staff that could brief them on these issues, as well as their own career and educational backgrounds. All this flawed reasoning shows is that Republicans will attempt the most they can to avoid assisting the president’s agenda, even if research shows student loan forgiveness could help their home states. States with Republican Senators and high averages in student loan debt, such as South Carolina, Iowa, and Alabama, would benefit from forgiving debt. Place yourself in their shoes; how easy would it be for a Senator from a highly conservative voting state to support the president on this initiative? Due to the hyper-polarization of politics and labeling programs as socialist, such as canceling student debt, it has become difficult for such cross-aisle politics to occur, further complicating programs that can do good to our society.