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Opinion Here’s an equitable solution on student loan forgiveness

The cap of a University of Iowa graduate is decorated with the words "cancel student debt" at a ceremony on May 14. (Joseph Cress/AP)
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The May 16 Politics & the Nation article “Biden plunges into risky politics of student loan debt” addressed the politics of student debt relief, including Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-Vt.) proposal for $50,000 debt forgiveness, and the opposition to such plans. President Biden has signaled support for some debt forgiveness but not the higher levels requested by progressive Democrats. The article noted that 45 million Americans held a total of $1.6 trillion in federal student debt in December 2021.

Though higher education is expensive, it is an investment by individuals to build knowledge and skills for personal and national growth. An Economist-YouGov poll found that 49 percent of Americans support forgiving student loan debt, and other polls show majority support for some level of debt forgiveness. The challenge is the level of relief and who benefits.

There is broad support for $10,000 of loan forgiveness, which would clear the balances of about one-third of borrowers. That is also the level that the 2019 Secure Act authorized students, who had 529 Plan student account balances, to use 529 funds to pay qualified education loans. Regardless of the 529 balance, only $10,000 can be applied to student loans.

There was bipartisan agreement in 2019 on the $10,000 level that could be applied to qualified loans, and should be the basis for agreement on forgiving $10,000 student debt now. That would offer the same benefit to students and their families who could not save and obtained federal loans for college as those who could save for college through 529 plans. That would be an equitable solution for Mr. Biden to enact by executive order.

Robert Perry, Arlington

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