One of the first things Joe Biden can do to help a nation struggling with COVID-19 and a financial crisis is to alleviate the burden for the tens of millions of Americans, like me, who are still carrying student loan debt in excess of $50,000.
I have been out of law school now since 1994. I should have paid off my loans a decade or so ago. But that’s not always the way life works. Job interruption, income loss, health crises, having to help family members in financial distress—all of it happens to the best of us. When I came out of law school, I only owed $46,000 in total debt from undergrad and law-school. With a high interest rate of 8.5 percent (that is the rate they locked us in at; we could not get these wonderful low interest rates and still cannot refinance them lower) and compounding when in forbearance (temporary postponement of payments), your debt can skyrocket into your principal being more than you actually borrowed. Which is what happened to me and many others.
Like many others, I could not keep up in years where finances were tight, or I wanted to buy my first home, a car, etc. Coming out of school with a $700-a-month payment for 10 years is a big deal for a single person, even a professional. For young people coming out of school now that figure is near double, with many having student loan payments of $1200 or more. They walk out with $100,000 debt for private colleges and universities and well over $50,000 for public universities and colleges. And that’s just for a bachelor’s degree.