Nuance is not in vogue in today’s politics. In fact, the lack of nuance may be the one common thread weaving Republicans and Democrats together. In an increasingly complicated world, we like our policy positions to be simple, preferably bifurcated. You are either pro-immigration or anti-immigration. Pro-life or pro-choice. Pro-gun or anti-gun. We scoff at the idea of receiving half a loaf when in our partisan mind we know we deserve a baker’s dozen. This is true for one of the defining issues of my generation, the $1.6 trillion in student loan debt.
In March 2020, as the world locked down to combat COVID-19, and there was hope that all we needed was two weeks to flatten the curve, 1 in 5 Americans experienced the flattening of a different curve: the interest on their student loan debt. Recognizing the incredible economic threat posed by a country and an economy on the verge of shutting down, President Donald Trump took the unprecedented step of pressing the pause button on student loans. This pause, which through congressional and executive action has lasted nearly two and a half years, not only suspended monthly student loan payments, but it also froze the accumulation of interest on student loan principals. Now, after six extensions, the pause is set to expire on August 31, 2022, but the future for borrowers remains unclear.
In 2020, Democrats eagerly outbid each other on student loan solutions. Some candidates pushed for complete loan discharge, others pressed for $50,000 in across-the-board loan forgiveness. President Biden represented a relatively moderate approach, suggesting that he would be open to forgiving $10,000 per borrower, a number that still seems to be bouncing around the White House and Department of Education.
As president, Biden continues to flirt with the possibility of broad, sweeping forgiveness, recently hinting that he would have a final decision by the end of this month. Just in time for midterm election campaigns to heat up.