Clearing the path to higher education for those in need

One of President Biden’s first acts in office was to request the Department of Education to extend the pause on student loan payments through September. Many are urging Biden to go further by issuing an executive order canceling $50,000 from all student loan borrowers’ debt. The Biden administration has proposed several other initiatives to make higher education more affordable, including forgiving up to $10,000 in student debt and providing free undergraduate education to anyone whose family earns less than $125,000 per year.

Higher education has the power to move individuals from poverty to self-sufficiency. According to a 2019 College Board study, students who participate in some college-level classes are less likely to need government assistance than those with only a high school degree. Study after study shows that students who complete some courses after high school can increase their earning potential. In fact, these earnings increase with the level of studies completed. We must do whatever we can to support students on their higher education journey so they can reach their full potential.

Yet the prospect of escaping poverty can be stifled if students take out education loans. Loan repayments can be a significant financial burden that affects students and their families for years. If students borrow but don’t complete their degree, they could dig themselves a larger financial hole with very little chance of climbing out. Thirty percent of students with less than an associate’s degree are behind in paying back their loans compared with 11 percent of those with a bachelor’s degree who struggle making their student loan payments. Students most likely to default are those who take out the least amount of money, and students with the least education are most behind in payments.

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