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Students Say $10,000 is Insignificant for Loan Forgiveness

Featured photo-illustration by Dana Kaldy

When debating between colleges to attend, some students may value things like a school’s prestigious faculty or bustling campus life. But Zuzanna Maziarz chose Hunter for one reason: “I was looking for college based on monetary criteria,” they said. “I knew that I didn’t wanna be in debt.” 

Maziarz’s worries are rooted in a very real concern. The average federal debt per student borrower is $37,113 — and a typical student takes 20 years to clear this balance, according to the Education Data Initiative. Even Maziarz’s parents are still paying off their own student loans from when they were in college 20 years ago. “I just think that’s definitely money that should be going towards more essential things,” the freshman said. 

The Biden administration recently announced the pause on student loan payments will stay in effect until Aug. 31, making this the sixth time it’s been extended since the pandemic began.

On the Pod Save America podcast, press secretary Jen Psaki stated that a decision will be made regarding canceling some student loan debt between now and before the pause expires in August. According to those close to the White House, the administration is considering forgiving $10,000 in debt per borrower.

But for some, that’s not enough. Maziarz calls it “a very small amount,” considering how much they’ve seen colleges ask for in just one semester. “I would say actually ‘crumbs’ is a pretty good word for it,” they joked. The freshman doesn’t have any loans themself, but won’t rule anything out. “Maybe I will go to grad school, you never know what happens.”

The median amount of federal loan debt that a Hunter College student graduates with is $12,333, according to U.S. News, which is more than Biden’s possible $10,000 elimination. But the numbers are even worse for those who pursue graduate school. Among borrowers, the average debt for a student with a master’s degree is $71,287. 

Ayesha Schmitt, the higher education coordinator at New York Public Interest Research Group, stated in an email that although the possibility of forgiving $10,000 is a step in the right direction, it is not nearly enough. “People should not be punished with heavy debt loads for seeking higher education,” she said. “This is not only an issue of economic equity, but also of racial equity as communities of color are disproportionately impacted.” 

The organization is working with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to advocate for $50,000 in student loan forgiveness. “Debt can be debilitating, stopping graduates from opening small businesses, buying homes, or kick-starting their lives after college,” she said.  

Ahmed Afzal, a junior, can resonate with this. He hopes to get a scholarship that will cover his time at pharmacy school once he graduates Hunter, but is aware of the reality that he might have to take out loans instead. “I’d probably be spending most of my salaries — in the coming years — just paying it off,” he said. “I’m not really gonna have the ability to spend my money for myself until like, after.”

Afzal said that leaves him angry. Without a scholarship to help cover the costs, the bio-chem major predicts pharmacy school will leave him with more than $30,000 in student loans. 

Those who take out loans from private colleges, like New York University, leave with some of the highest debts for an undergraduate, averaging $32,029 per student, according to U.S. News. Sophomore Christa Huang doesn’t have loans out herself, but has friends who attend NYU that do. 

She questions why recent high school graduates — who know very little about interest collection and debt — are entrusted to take out extreme-costing loans to begin with.  An 18-year-old, “wouldn’t be able to get a loan for a house or a loan for a car,” she said. “The government, these loan companies, they’re giving so much out to students.”

Some former borrowers have argued that forgiving student loans is unfair considering the sacrifices they made in order to pay back the debts themselves. But Huang very much disagrees with this. “Why do other people have to suffer because you suffered?” she said, “You would’ve loved it if it was for you, so why not for other people?” 


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