By Wynn Andrews
Tom Eldridge, a biology major at the University of Georgia, plans to attend dental school next year. Since graduating high school, he has worked each summer to save money and pay for college tuition himself.
“Growing up, I knew that paying for my college wasn’t an option for my family financially, so I worked every day to create that opportunity for myself,” he said.
However, after evaluating UGA’s expenses for freshmen, Eldridge knew that borrowing student loans was his only option. While he hopes to eventually pay back all loans, Eldridge worries because he knows that he will have to continue borrowing after graduation for dental school.
“School is tough already as a student pursuing a doctorate degree, but knowing that I will be graduating with so much debt is a burden all by itself,” he said. “I’m not going to be able to buy a dental practice if I’m $300,000 in debt after dental school.”
Eldridge said he has considered applying for debt forgiveness, but is aware of the possibility that his loans might not be forgiven, a concern that millions of student loan borrowers share.
According to a Forbes article, perhaps the trickiest issue regarding student debt is the fact that there is not a “yes” or “no” answer to whether an individual’s loans will be forgiven.
The Student Borrower Protection Center (SBPC) said that although over 650,000 borrowers have had their loans forgiven through the relief efforts of the Biden administration, “tens of millions” more continue to struggle with repayment.
Although the Obama administration brought significant attention to the matter during the 2007-2009 recession, the student debt issue is nowhere close to disappearing, according to a Fortune article. Student Loan Hero claimed that student debt is haunting individuals at a higher level than ever before.
According to the Education Data Initiative, 43.4 million borrowers have federal student loan debt, and the outstanding Federal Loan Portfolio is over $1.61 trillion.
For Eldridge and all borrowers alike, debt organizations advocating for forgiveness said there is no definite way of knowing whether their loans will be forgiven or when that might be.
Many organizations, such as Debt Collective and the SBPC, have fought to bring voices to the millions who are struggling with student debt. According to SBPC’s Director of Advocacy Kat Welbeck, now is the time to speak out on student debt struggles, even if there is no concrete answer for eventual loan forgiveness.
“This is really the best time to let your voice be heard, and make it known that your debt cancellation matters. The national conversation on student debt has changed,” Welbeck said.
Some programs such as the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program have adjusted requirements to make more people eligible. According to the SBPC website, borrowers who were previously ineligible because they had a loan type not covered by the program can now receive credit for forgiveness after working in public service for 10 years.
While there is no clear timetable or solution to broad loan forgiveness, many advocates like Welbeck are encouraging student borrowers to keep the faith.
“We are still waiting for the president to fulfill his commanding promise on student debt,” she said. “So, the more voices that are heard, the closer the student debt crisis will be pushed to the forefront.”
Wynn Andrews is a journalism student at the University of Georgia.