President Joe Biden campaigned on a promise to help solve the student loan debt crisis, and many are expecting him to tackle that soon. On the campaign trail, he spoke about favoring some student loan debt forgiveness but was hesitant on the idea of wiping out the debt completely.
Student loan debt forgiveness, in any form, is very controversial. While some believe it is necessary for millions of Americans who are unable to pay these loans back, others worry it would raise the national debt to help those who should be able to repay the loans they took out.
“You have to remember, people who earn a bachelor’s degree or advanced degree, greatly on average, increase their lifetime earnings,” said Neal McCluskey, with the Cato Institute. "Starting when you get a bachelor’s degree, about $1 million more than someone who gets a high school diploma.”
McCluskey says student loan forgiveness sounds good to those with student loans, but he says it becomes “very problematic” for everyone else.
While many who graduate with an advanced degree do tend to make more on average, that is not always the case.
“I went to college because I was unhappy with my life. I wasn’t finding good jobs because I didn’t have an education, so everyone your whole life was saying, ‘If you want a good future, you go to college,” said Chad Albright.
In 2005, Albright enrolled at Millersville University of Pennsylvania, studying communications and public relations.
“I worked full-time went to school full-time,” Albright added.
In order to fully afford the education, he had to take out tens of thousands of dollars in student loans.
“As soon as I graduate comes the great recession and no jobs available,” explained Albright.
He struggled to find work and pay back his student loans for four years.
“I was so frustrated not being able to find a job that I even tried to join the military,” Albright added.
However, that didn’t pan out either. Overwhelmed with his student loan debt that grew every day with interest and feeling hopeless about the possibility of ever repaying the debt, he made a decision to leave the U.S. and his debt behind.
In 2011, he moved abroad.
“The only thing college did is these things: it ruined my credit rating and forced me to leave my country,” said an angry Albright. “I haven’t seen my mother in over three years.”
“People are committing suicide, people are fleeing the country, young people and middle-aged people as well are unable to buy homes,” said Alan Collinge, founder of Student Loan Justice.
Collinge’s organization has fought for more than a decade for the government to forgive student loan debt and end student loan predatory lending practices.
“Student loans, unlike every other type of loan, has been uniquely stripped of fundamental consumer protections,” said Collinge, “There are no bankruptcy protection, for all intents and purposes, for student loans and no statute of limitations.
“Fair debt collection laws, truth in lending laws, these have all been vacated from student loans.”
For the first time, since he started his fight for student loan debt forgiveness and protections, he’s cautiously optimistic that a new administration in the White House and a Democratic majority in the Senate and House could lead to student loan forgiveness and better student loan debt protection.
“Bankruptcy protections absolutely must be returned to the loans that cannot be canceled, and in fact, bankruptcy is probably the more important and fundamental right that has to be restored,” said Collinge.
At this point, it will take either full loan forgiveness or bankruptcy protection for Albright to come home. On principle, he refuses to pay the debt that never led to the job he needed and that he was allowed to rack up with little protection from predatory lending practices.
“I see the U.S. as tyranny. They have me and 40 million other people in a debtor’s prison,” said Albright.