What do Utahns think of student loan relief? Reviews are mixed

Utahns have mixed reactions to President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan. (pogonici, Shutterstock)

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SALT LAKE CITY – It felt like a weight of over 20 years was lifted off their shoulders.

Meg Palmer and her husband were relieved last week when they heard President Joe Biden’s announcement to forgive federal student loan debt.

“We’ve been paying them for so long that it’s now part of our billing routine,” said Palmer, of West Valley City. “We are really excited about this opportunity.”

Under the plan, borrowers who earn less than $125,000 a year, or families earning less than $250,000, would be eligible for a $10,000 loan forgiveness. For Pell Grant recipients, the federal government would forgive up to an additional $10,000 of federal debt.

Palmer, who homeschools her two children, said the forgiveness plan will significantly reduce what she owes the government and free up about $400 from her family’s monthly payments.

Although the plan is popular with Palmer and his family — as well as others who responded to a recent KSL.com questionnaire — a poll conducted in May for the Deseret News and the Hinckley Institute of Politics shows that the Utahns are not really enthusiastic about the idea of ​​student loan forgiveness.

The results of that poll, involving 808 registered Utah voters, reflected low levels of support for federal loan forgiveness for all borrowers and slightly higher support — 14% — for partial loan forgiveness. . Partial loan forgiveness for low-income borrowers had the highest level of support, but even then it was only 17% overall and reached 25% among respondents with a college degree. graduate studies.

Chris Quick, of Cedar City, decided to return to college after serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and said taking out a loan was his best option for achieving his goals — which he finally did – when he graduated last spring.

“I can see how a plan might appeal to many students, especially if you’ve graduated and can’t find a high-paying job right away,” Quick said.

Despite owing more than $20,000 in student loans, Quick said he was not a fan of the recently passed student loan forgiveness plan.

“The way I see it, it’s very unfair to those who haven’t taken out loans, those who have repaid their loans and, more importantly, it’s not fair to taxpayers who eventually have to pay the bill,” Quick said. “I think it’s important for people to take responsibility for their own actions.”

Like Quick, Ruth Nelson knew her education at Brigham Young University would depend on student loans. With that in mind, she worked through college to put herself in a position where she eventually paid off all the loans.

Although she admitted she was not “an expert” on all the details of the plan, she said she thought it “placed an undue burden on people who may have chosen not to college experience because they couldn’t afford student loans.”

“This money isn’t coming out of nowhere, it’s going to come off everyone’s shoulders,” said Nelson, of West Valley City. “I’m afraid that with this bailout, in a sense, we’re really taking away some really good experiences that these students and alumni might have had in this struggle because I think we’re growing in some of these struggles that we’re going through in life. .”

Like respondents to the KSL.com questionnaire, opinions on the impact of the forgiveness plan on the economy differ from expert to expert.

Lawrence Summers, former director of the National Economic Council, said in a tweet that “student debt relief is an expense that increases demand and increases inflation”, indicating that inflation will be observed by an increase in tuition fees.

Joseph Stiglitz, chief economist of the Roosevelt Institute, wrote in The Atlantic that “whatever your view on canceling student debt, the inflation argument is a red herring and should not be not influence politics.

Palmer said she’s heard that some people are upset with the plan because they often work multiple jobs to send their kids — or themselves — to school, a situation she knows well.

“My parents were blue collar and they were working all these extra jobs and I still had to take out loans,” Palmer said.

Ryan Welling took out student loans after graduating from Weber State University and decided to continue his studies at the University of Utah. He believes the outrage surrounding the plan points to a larger societal problem.

“People say, ‘Well, I’ve worked three jobs and haven’t been on vacation for 10 years. Yeah, you had a miserable experience doing that and now you want to force everyone else to have the same miserable experience?” Welling said.

Welling said while he has student loan repayments, the plan won’t affect him much, noting he’s “blessed” to be in a position where he can afford a loan-based repayment plan. revenue.

“It’s such a weird concept to me, like, why are you upset that someone else is getting help?” Welling asked. “Why not lighten their burden?

To apply for a rebate or payments to count toward the rebate under the temporary changes, visit the Federal Student Aid online help tool.

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Logan Stefanich is a reporter for KSL.com, covering Southern Utah communities, education, business, and military news.

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