Biden Student Loan Freeze Only a Short-Term Fix
Ohioans with federal student loans won’t have to make payments through September under an executive order signed by new President Joe Biden. But advocates want better solutions.
Besides the freeze on payments, Biden proposed cancelling $10,000 of federal debt per borrower.
Piet Van Lier is an education and justice reform researcher at the liberal-leaning think tank, Policy Matters Ohio. He says this is a good start but a more sustainable solution would be to assess the cost of higher education.
“This is a barrier. Like I said, it doesn't expand opportunity, but it really shuts the door on a lot of people who can't get the loans. Or once they do, maybe they can finish and they're stuck with loans. People pay for decades on these loans,” Van Lier said.
He says it's not a long-term solution, especially for those with the greatest need.
"Low income people, students of color. They are the people who really need the equity that would be provided by making higher education, postsecondary education more affordable,” he said.
He says lawmakers need to implement policies to restructure financial aid like the Ohio College Opportunity Grant and make it more accessible to lower-income individuals.
Van Lier says Ohio legislators need to think about new ways of raising revenue to make higher education more affordable and accessible.
"So there's opportunity there to think about how you raise some new revenue to pay for these things that are so essential to the future of Ohio," he said. "That's not just for individuals, but for their commune and state as a whole. The better educated your workforce is, the stronger your economy will be."
One of these ways Van Lier wants to see legislators implement is raising taxes on higher income people and cutting business loopholes.
"For too long Ohio legislators have been cutting taxes and in the belief that this would help our economy grow and create opportunities. But that's clearly not happening," he said. "Instead, we're just cutting budgets everywhere, and we need to think about how do we raise new taxes in different ways, cutting business loopholes, raising taxes on higher income people in Ohio. They've all gotten tax cuts over the past 15 years to the tune of $7 billion. "
When state lawmakers take up budget discussions this year, Van Lier would like to see them reassess funding for public colleges and universities, consider making community colleges free and re-evaluate financial aid options for students so people don't have to rely on the student loan system.