Recent Kane County college grads ‘relieved’ about Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan

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Some recent Kane County college graduates are breathing a sigh of relief after President Joe Biden announced Wednesday his plan to cancel some federal student loan debt.

Under Biden’s plan, single individuals making less than $125,000 annually can have up to $10,000 in federal student loans canceled and those who also received Pell grants can have an additional $10,000 canceled for a total of $20,000 in loan forgiveness.

Biden’s plan affects millions of students across the country, including many in the Fox Valley area.

Maple Park resident Victoria Lunacek graduated from Northern Illinois University in 2018. She said she is “relieved” that much of her $24,000 in student loan debt will be canceled.

Lunacek said she received Pell grants and the new plan would wipe out most of her debt.

“I was naive when I took out loans, not realizing what it can really do to your financial situation,” she said. “It’s good because students just cannot afford to pay them back, with inflation and cost of living continuing to rise, it makes it nearly impossible to prioritize student loans.”

However, Lunacek said that she is concerned taxes could rise to compensate for the loans that won’t be repaid.

“I feel like we’re going to have to find a way to pay it back, whether that be through a tax hike or any other type of financial adjustment,” she said. “I also find it a little unfair that people who did already pay off their loans or save that money to be able to go to college don’t benefit from this.”

Under Biden’s plan, Hampshire resident and recent college graduate Marcos Brandon could have $20,000 of his $27,000 debt wiped out. Like Lunacek, he said he too is “relieved.”

“I’m also a little upset because this does not fix the problems concerning the cost of higher education, as well as the faults in the student loan system,” he said. “Loans should be interest-free and the government approaches loan consideration for federal loans in a predatory way. I feel like (Biden’s plan) is targeted to people who need it the most.”

Kenneth Shepro, former chairman of the Kane County Republican Party, said $10,000 could be a lot of money for some people, but “anyone who used it to go to graduate or professional school owes a whole lot more than $10,000.”

“If you borrowed money to go to law school or grad school, you owe more like $100,000,” Shepro said. “It’s a forgiveness program that does not respect and take into account sacrifices people made who thought they were supposed to pay it back. If you paid it off, you get zero except a big ‘sucker’ written across their foreheads.”

Shepro said loan forgiveness should take into account people who either are paying or have paid off their loans.

“The many working class families that sacrificed to pay back their loans are given nothing – not a tax break and no retroactive adjustment,” Shepro said. “It’s too little for people who need relief and nothing for people who sacrificed because they didn’t think they should get a free ride. It’s outrageous. Those people get nothing but a thank-you note.”

Kane County Board candidate Jeffrey Meyer of Elgin said that he believes the plan is “conspicuously timed political pandering.”

“Canceling student loan debt en masse is a slap in the face to those who have paid back their loans, worked while in college to pay their bills, fought to control education costs, never borrowed what they didn’t absolutely need, took a public service job to earn partial forgiveness, fought in the U.S. Armed Forces to earn G.I. Bill benefits, or who chose a career path that didn’t involve attending college and taking out student loans,” he wrote in an email. “It’s a thinly veiled attempt to effectively buy votes.”

Shaw Local reporter Brenda Schory contributed to this report.

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August 24, 2022 at 09:22PM

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