By Ethan Nichols, World News Editor
The rising cost of higher education has quickly become the defining crisis of our generation.
While many universities, including Xavier, continue to raise tuition without providing adequate relief for low-income and middle class students, it has come time for the federal government to take action to help the millions of Americans burdened with student loan debt.
At Xavier, our tuition increased by 6% this year, for a total of 43.77% increase in the past 10 years. Xavier is quickly becoming inaccessible to many people. I, myself, rely heavily on scholarships and financial aid to afford Xavier.
I have been very lucky to receive significant financial aid. As a Community Engaged Fellow, I commit to 10 hours a week of community service and receive a sizable scholarship award. Without the fellowship, I would not be here. But not every student is that lucky.
Nearly 48 million Americans hold student loan debt, and at a time when Americans are struggling to make ends meet, the Biden administration announced that they are canceling $10,000 in student loan debt, and $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients.
During the 2020 presidential campaign, President Biden campaigned on full student loan debt cancellation. In a medium post, Biden wrote “I propose to forgive all undergraduate tuition-related federal student debt from two- and four-year public colleges and universities for debt-holders earning up to $125,000, with appropriate phase-outs to avoid a cliff.”
Biden has the legal authority to cancel all student loan debt via executive action; that much is clear. Legal experts from Harvard wrote that proposals to cancel student loan debt “would be a lawful and permissible exercise on the Secretary’s authority under existing law.”
The decision by the Biden administration to cancel just $10,000 in student debt is clearly driven by a lack of political will.
Full student loan debt cancellation was a signature policy proposal during the 2020 election and has become a fairly mainstream idea.
Student loan debt cancellation is not the final solution to the crisis of affordability in higher education.
In the long run, higher education will still remain inaccessible and too expensive for many Americans. To truly address this, all public four-year colleges and universities should be 100% tuition free for any American who wishes to attend, as well as technical and community colleges.
While the political reality is that free public college is unlikely, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be advocating for it. In the interim, full and unilateral student loan debt cancellation is a reasonable, popular, legal and effective way to help relieve some of the burden for millions of Americans. Low income and working class families are struggling, now more than ever. It’s time we take action to support them. Polling shows that the majority of Americans support student loan debt cancellation.
Not only is student loan debt cancellation the morally correct thing to do, but it is also a politically popular policy proposal. Democrats have recently seen major swings in polls and are picking up steam heading into the midterms. A sure fire way for Democrats to retain control of the House and expand their majority in the Senate is to immediately cancel all student loan debt. Democrats can win by passing broadly popular policies supported by the majority of Americans. You win by getting things done.
Now is the time for President Biden to keep his promises and immediately cancel all student loan debt for all Americans.