Forgiving pupil debt helps seniors
Senator Minority Chairman Chuck Schumer (D-NY) (R) listens as U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill on October 20, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Stefani Reynolds | Getty Images
The people elected two leaders – President Biden and Vice President Harris – who worked to help kickstart our economy by canceling billions of dollars in student loan debt. This commitment affects more older Americans than you might think.
Currently in the United States, over 43 million people are buried under $ 1.5 trillion in student loans, including 6.3 million borrowers ages 50 to 64 and nearly a million borrowers over 65 who may still be available for a loved one pay for education or for their own. They carried this burden while the rich got richer amid this pandemic.
That is not right. And it’s no wonder so many Americans don’t believe Washington is working for them.
But the Biden Harris administration can fix the problem. We urge President Biden and Vice President Harris to immediately cancel up to $ 50,000 in federal student loan debt. The US Department of Education holds this debt and can also cancel it. That is exactly what Joe Biden and Kamala Harris should tell their education secretary to do.
The debt burden on older Americans has grown alarmingly: According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), adults 50 and older accounted for $ 47 billion in student loans in 2004, but by 2018 that number had skyrocketed to $ 289.5 billion -Dollar. In fact, student debt is one of the largest contributors to the overall increase in debt that seniors are holding. And like the massive debt burden facing younger Americans, trying to clear that mountain of student debt inevitably pulls our seniors down as well.
Every year the federal government pushes tens of thousands of seniors into poverty or near-poverty by collecting social security benefits to offset student loan debt, undermining one of the country’s most successful poverty reduction programs. In 2015, the federal government garnished the social security checks of nearly 114,000 Americans.
That benefit cut is often not even enough to cover rising interest payments, and the profits for the federal government are tiny. In fact, more than 70% of the social security benefits garnished only went into the fees and interest on student loans and not paid out the senior citizens’ main balances, leaving many seniors with a reduced standard of living just to get stuck in a cycle of inevitable debt.
The results for seniors who rely on Social Security to put food on the table or have a roof over their heads are devastating. This is amoral and predatory, and it’s not a federal government that works for older Americans.
Older Americans with student debt include people who may not have had a chance to graduate when they were younger because they had a family to support but made an attempt to achieve the American dream and go to college later in life walk. Now their student debt is swallowing up the old-age insurance they worked so hard for.
This includes parents who have made sacrifices by taking out a parental loan so that their child or dependent grandchild can receive an education and build a prosperous future. Now their hard-earned income and retirement safety nets are dwindling as their debt burden exceeds interest rates. This is especially true for people who live on a fixed income in retirement.
In both situations, they were told that education is the ticket to the American dream that would inevitably lead to a financially secure retirement, whether they took on debt for themselves or for a loved one. However, according to the AARP, this is not the case with 37% of Americans over the age of 65 who are behind on their student loans.
Bottom line: The federal government has turned its back on Americans young and old with student loan debts. The system has failed them and today they are drowning in debt if they should experience pension security in their golden years. The debt burden undermines federal safety net programs – like Social Security – that were created to keep Americans financially secure.
No older person should have to make life-changing decisions whether to pay off their student loan, put food on the table, or keep themselves and their families safe and healthy, especially during this public health crisis. Older Americans shouldn’t have to limit daily meals in order to make a monthly payment. And under no circumstances should they be deprived of their hard-earned social security.
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris can cancel up to $ 50,000 in student loan debt for our seniors, and we hope you will join us in pushing them to do so.
Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, is the Senate majority leader. The Democrat Elizabeth Warren represents Massachusetts in the Senate.