‘Cancel it all or do nothing’: Readers react to the chance of $10,000 in student loan forgiveness

The White House, Washington, D.C.
Joe Daniel Price | Moment | Getty Images

Tens of millions of Americans are waiting anxiously for word from the Biden administration on what it plans to do on broad-based student loan forgiveness.

Most recently, the White House was reported to be leaning toward a cancellation plan of $10,000 per borrower (for those who earn under $150,000).

Yet President Joe Biden is under intense pressure to do more.

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The Senate’s top Democrat, Chuck Schumer of New York, along with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., have been pushing him to forgive at least $50,000 for all.

The NAACP has also been vocal about how $10,000 wouldn’t go nearly far enough for Black student loan borrowers, who carry an average balance more than $50,000 a few years after graduating.

Wisdom Cole, national director of the association’s youth and college division, recently said on Twitter that nixing just $10,000 would be “a slap in the face.”

At the same time, the idea of student debt forgiveness infuriates many Americans, including those who never borrowed for their education or went to college. Some Republicans have said they would try to block an effort by the president to cancel the debt.

The vast disagreement on the topic explains in part why it’s been so hard for the administration to decide how to proceed, especially with the midterm elections looming.

CNBC asked readers how they’d feel about the White House forgiving $10,000 in student debt. Dozens of people wrote in.

Here’s what four of them had to say. (Editor’s note: Answers have been lightly edited for clarity.)

‘$10,000 … would be substantial for me’

Caleb Perkins, 29, student

Dayton, Ohio

I will be approximately $50,000 in debt by the time I graduate in December with my master’s in social work from Ohio University. I’m a first-generation college student who comes from very humble roots. My mother is a high school graduate; my father is a high school dropout, but both of them are some of the hardest workers I have ever known.

I started my higher education at Sinclair Community College here in Dayton, fortunately getting a substantial scholarship from the school, as well as a full Pell grant due to my family’s income level. I eventually graduated with an associate’s in cybersecurity and computer forensics before transferring to Ohio University to pursue a bachelor’s in criminal justice.

I see student loans as one of those necessary evils. It’s not that I wanted the debt. Ten thousand dollars in forgiveness would be substantial for me. Is it as much as I’d like to see? No. But it is better than nothing and 20% off my total is still quite a bit.

‘Living within your means’

Stephen Berenson, 59, retired financial analyst

San Antonio

I am writing from the perspective of a parent who funded two children’s undergraduate educations at private liberal arts colleges and subsequently helped fund a master’s degree program for one of them. We didn’t take out any student loans. Instead, we looked at schools where we knew that the chance of fully funding their education could be met with our contribution and merit-based aid.

Forgiving student loans is a slap in the face to parents and students who saved for college and selected schools that were within our price points.
Stephen Berenson
retired financial analyst

Both the kids got accepted to a couple of schools where the merit aid packages wouldn’t be enough, and we had some serious discussions along with disappointment from the kids when we collectively decided the schools were above our financial means.

Forgiving student loans is a slap in the face to parents and students who saved for college and selected schools that were within our price points. The government should be promoting the idea of living within your means. I think this message has been entirely lost today.

‘$10,000 would barely put a dent in what I owe’

Kaylea Weiler, 36, partner at a law firm


I’m an attorney who owes $125,000 in student loans. That’s after making consistent payments during the 10 years I’ve been out of school and paying $25,000 during the interest-free pause over the last two years. Prior to the pause, my required minimum payment was $1,800 per month. I know that as a partner at a law firm now, I make more money than the average borrower, but I feel buried in debt without options.

I’m a new mom and would love to be able to spend my little ones’ infant and toddler years at home with them, but I can’t afford not to keep working. I had to take out loans because I’m one of six children, and my parents could not afford to pay for law school or to support me financially while I attended.

Ten thousand dollars would barely put a dent in what I owe. I feel conflicted even writing this; there are others far worse off than me. But this is my situation, and I know I’m not alone.

‘Cancel it all or do nothing’

Erin Bartlett, 42, teacher

St. Paul, Minnesota

I’m absolutely crushed at the thought of only $10,000 being forgiven. I’ve been a K-12 educator in Minnesota for 19 years, and I have about $50,000 left to pay off. This debt is crippling. I currently work two part-time jobs in addition to my full-time job to make ends meet.

I’m so tired of America being one of the only places in the world where education isn’t free. If I could get all my federal student loans canceled, I could save money to retire and wouldn’t need to work three jobs. Cancel it all or do nothing.

Sophie Tremblay

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