With the midterm elections looming in November, President Biden’s program to forgive student loans has riled up both supporters and opponents in South Florida.
“It helps relieve a lot of the burden young students and Americans have to face every day,” said Amada Gonzalez, a web designer.
Gonzalez, an independent who lives in Little Havana, asked, “How else can this country support them or this government support them without lending a hand?”
On the other side are voters like 47-year-old surgeon Dr. Eduardo Perez, who said he strongly opposes the plan because of the cost and the issue of fairness.
“I don’t agree with Biden’s forgiveness of student loans,” said Perez, an independent voter.
Perez, who was educated in Venezuela, said he believes it’s unfair for those who have already paid back their student loans. “I did my education in another country, paid for my loans, and I don’t think everyone should pay for others.” he said.
Biden’s plan to cancel student loan debt for tens of millions of Americans comes with a hefty price tag of $400 billion over 30 years, according to an estimate by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which nonetheless cautioned that its estimates were “highly uncertain.”
The initiative will forgive up to $10,000 in federal student loans for individuals making less than $125,000. Pell Grant recipients will be eligible to receive a $20,000 debt cancellation as well. Biden unveiled the website and application on Monday at the White House.
Nationally, voters are about evenly split on the program. A recent NBC News poll found 43% believe the loan forgiveness plan was a good idea, while 44% of voters say it was a bad idea. Among voters who have student loans, nearly 7 out of 10 agreed that Biden’s plan was a good idea, while among voters who don’t have student loans, only 36% thought the program was a good idea.
Democratic voter Lori Brooks, 63, is a retired nurse who emphasized the positive change she believes debt cancellation can ignite among young people.
“If we’re going to charge rent and put mortgages out of reach to young adults,” she said, “then we better assist them with some loan forgiveness in the hopes that ultimately they will give back and make this country better.”
University of Florida student Maite Chapartegui, 18, said she backs Biden’s plan because student loans can be a major burden that people carry around for years, even decades.
“I think student loans hold a lot of people back from pursuing higher education,” said Chapartegui, an independent. “This plan is a great way of helping these students and encouraging more people to get higher education and hopefully get higher paying jobs.”
Graphic designer Robert Camarena, 60, said he agrees with the plan because it will benefit lower-income communities.
“I support it because many of those people are actually teachers and other low-income earners who truly need the help,” said Camarena.
Miami native Sebastian Villamizar, 18, said, “I have a twin brother who is attending college, and I believe that families like mine who have to support more than one child at a time should receive more. Ideally, the cost of receiving education itself should go down.”
Registered Nurse Odalys Tomas, 57, said that while there are large costs associated with the program, the entire country will benefit from it.
“I think this is one way this generation can move beyond debt and benefit from a true democratic capitalist country,” she said.
But independent voter Rose Atash, 54, criticized the loan forgiveness program as a giveaway at a time when she’s facing rising economic difficulties.
“I don’t support this plan because how can I financially support someone’s debt when I’m struggling to support my own,” Atash said. “I might not have student loans, but with my mortgage and day-to-day expenses, I drown in my own financial problems.”
For more stories on the election, check out the SFMN voter guide.