College students and graduates say they are waiting for Biden to cancel student loan debt like he promised

Published: Jun. 4, 2022 at 8:19 AM EDT
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(CNN) - This week, President Joe Biden canceled $5.8 billion in federal student debt for more than half-a-million borrowers, the largest loan cancellation from the administration to date.

But millions of others are anxiously waiting for Biden to keep his campaign promise to forgive $10,000 in federal student loan debt per student.

“It has been such trials and tribulations,” said Vinessa Gabriell Russell, a recent college graduate. She became the first in her family to earn a bachelor’s degree, but she’s also graduating with student loan debt.

“The last time I checked it was approximately $48,000. They come to find you,” Russell said.

She said a debt collector called her while she was working, “and they asked for Vinessa and they’re like, ‘This is the debt collector’ basically. ‘We were trying to find out when are you going to pay your your student debt?’”

At one point, Russell temporally dropped out of school.

“I did have to leave Columbia and pay a balance that was due in order for me to go back,” she said.

But she is not alone. Data shows there is about $1.6 trillion in federal student loan debt.

Tayvia Ridgeway, a college junior, wants a six-figure salary, but right now she has nearly a six-figure student loan debt.

“I’d be in the range of like 80 to 100K just based on my tuition rates right now,” she said.

That’s even after Ridgeway became a residence advisor to cut down on her room and board costs.

“You should get a free education because you can’t put a price on knowledge,” she said.

On the campaign trail, Biden promised to cancel $10,000 in student loan debt for each of the 43 million people with federal student loans.

Due to the pandemic, he paused loan repayments until Aug. 31, but it is not clear if and when the White House will move forward with some form of permanent loan forgiveness despite pressure from fellow Democrats at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

“You don’t need Congress. All you need is the flick of a pen,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, pushing to cancel $50,000 debt per borrower.

Biden has rejected those calls. The White House said Biden is considering some debt forgiveness for those making up to $125,000.

Gabby Bach, like Ridgeway, was a resident advisor. She calls it a broken campaign promise.

“And I think this is something that Biden has promised and there’s something that I feel like he hasn’t delivered on yet,” she said. “During the campaign, like that, this was something that a lot of people who voted for him, that this was something that they wanted.”

“I say it would only help a little bit. If anything, I’d want my full tuition covered. But, you know, that’s not the world we live in,” Ridgeway said.

Russell said she welcomes any relief.

“It would help me so much. It’s like an emotional experience because it’s taken me so long and I almost gave up, and sorry, just thinking about it,” she said.

The canceled $5.8 billion in student loan debt only applies to the 560,000 borrowers who attended the now-defunct network of for-profit schools known as Corinthian Colleges.

The total student loan debt cancellation approved under the Biden administration is up to $25 billion.

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