NASHVILLE, Tenn (WKRN) — In total, Tennesseans hold more than $31 billion in student debt, but because of President Biden’s new policy on federal student loans, more than 25% of students’ average loan debt will be forgiven.
For some public school teachers in the metro Nashville area, there is hope they’ll soon see their student loans go down after years of only being able to pay off the minimum.
“The big amount I took out was about $30,000. I’ve only paid about $4,000 in all these years. I’ve been paying on time,” said 6th-grade teacher Paige La Grone Babcock.
Babcock went back to school to get her masters in education about 10 years ago and says her salary hasn’t increased enough for her to put a lot towards her loan payments.
She is concerned that with her loans, her husband’s equivalent loans from his master’s in education, and her son a year away from starting college, her whole family will soon be burdened with debt.
“He’s about to go off to college and we still owe for our own graduate studies. And it’s really scary and emotional,” she said.
Over the past decade, Babcock has paid off about 14% of her loan, which means she still owes the government $23,648.
“People ask why didn’t you pay more. There was no more,” she explained.
She says her family has been spending carefully for years now and rarely takes any large vacations or indulge in big purchases. However, it’s not enough for her to put anymore toward her debt.
Vanderbilt Associate Professor of Public Policy and Higher Education Brent Evans says Babcock is one of many Tennesseans who will benefit from this policy.
“Tennessee borrowers have borrowed an extraordinary amount of student loans over the course of their educational careers in higher education,” he said.
However, the new policy from the Biden administration has also faced a lot of criticism from Republicans.
Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn recently tweeted, “President Biden’s decision to waive student loan debt will increase inflation and is another gift for the rich.”
Evans says that the Biden administration is taking on an inflationary risk.
But while forgiving these loans means the government isn’t getting money back, it won’t have the same impact on inflation as the government sending people money.
“What we are doing is someone who pays $100 a month on their loans no longer has to spend $100 dollars a month because $10,000 have been forgiven. So, the amount of money they have in their pocket now isn’t $10,000 more,” he explained.
Evans also acknowledged other arguments against this policy like some saying the $125,000 income is too high and that this measure will not help future college students.
“There is some criticism that maybe this money can be used in other ways to enhance college access and affordability,” he added.
Babcock says she and her husband are trying to apply for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program but are nervous after hearing stories from other teachers having a hard time with it.
So, while she understands the criticism of the policy, she thinks having less debt will improve her future and her family’s.
“I want for my child to have a good life, I want him to have the college experience that is so important for him growing independence, academics, and just maturation,” she said.