What SIU Students have to say about Biden and the Student Debt Crisis

As the total national student debt rises year after year, more and more are calling for widespread loan forgiveness. According to research team the Education Data Initiative, the national student debt value is currently $1.61 trillion, nearly double what it was a decade ago in 2012. In comparison, the total U.S. national debt is currently over $30 trillion. This value is split between more than 43.4 million borrowers, with the average among all student borrowers being $37,113.

Many have called for the Biden administration to forgive student debt, calling for $10,000, $50,000, or all of the individual debt being canceled through executive order, depending on who’s being asked. John Jackson, a political scientist and professor at SIU’s Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, said he believes that the contention behind the disagreement makes it an especially difficult policy issue to tackle.

“With this, it’s always controversial what they might do,” Jackson said. “Congress acting on it would be cleaner because if the president cancels [$10,000 or $50,000] for everyone, […] Republicans will take it to court, and federal courts are problematic for the Biden administration.”


Jackson said that from his perspective, it appears that many approach the issue of debt cancellation from an ethical framework.

“I think what’s really behind the opposition is sort of the moral view that ‘okay, you went into this with your eyes wide open. You took on all of this debt’.” Jackson said. “Now, I think the counter to that is to point out that […] the hardest [debt] to pay back [is put] on those who go into public service or who go into […] lower paying jobs like [K-12] public school teachers.”

Nia Williams is a third year student majoring in Physiology and Japanese. Williams says she believes she wouldn’t have even come to college if it had not been for a scholarship because she feared taking on student loans.

“I am surrounded by a lot of my family members who have college debt, unfortunately,” Williams said. “One of my friends took out 30k in loans and they just […] didn’t really find it worth it, and unfortunately a lot of my friends, especially this year, have decided not to continue with SIU because of how expensive it is.”

Williams said while she does have hopes for debt cancellation, she was reluctant to put faith in a single president or a single administration.

“I don’t really rely on our president to really do anything for us,” Williams said. “After the Trump administration, I really don’t look to them as somebody who’s going to save us or help us at all. […] You know, we’re calling for action on the sort of things that are bothering us, or the American people are asking ‘hey, like, we’re in debt, like we’re trying to get degrees to better America.’ […] And you can’t even relieve our problems.”

Draven Witt, a Biomedical science major, said his family’s financial situation puts him at an unfortunate disadvantage.


“I’m in the right position where my parents make just enough that I didn’t qualify for almost any scholarships in high schools,” Witt said. “So they’re like, ‘Oh, your family makes enough.’ And I was like, ‘they make enough for themselves, not enough to help me any.’”

Witt stated that he has concerns about whether Biden and his administration could effectively create any meaningful change for students.

“I don’t really expect a lot out of him. […] I would love it if student loans would just go down a little bit, you know, not having to pay them back and everything. But then again, [we] live in today’s world… not a lot is really going to change.”

Chase Vieweg, a fourth year student in the Forestry department, stated that he believes that it should be handled differently for each person.

“I think $10,000 would be a good starting approach and then maybe delegating on a case-by-case basis, depending on a person’s case,” Vieweg said. “I know a majority of the kids I graduated with in high school actually did just approach the job market instead of going to college. So, there is the option of just finding a job, or there is the option of trade school, tech schools or community college. […] I think $10,000 is a very good starting point with that.”

Karisma Rodriguez, a second year student working towards a degree in Communication Design and Art Education, cited the large disparity between the current cost of tuition and prior generations.

“Back when our grandparents went to college, it was way cheaper,” Rodriguez said. “Look how much we have to spend on textbooks; it’s absolutely crazy. Especially with millennials – they’re in debt, they’re living with their parents. […] Nobody can really get a head start for stuff with low paying jobs and it’s just insane.”

Staff reporter Ethan Braun can be reached at [email protected] To stay up to date with all your Southern Illinois News follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.