WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden’s plan to forgive $10k in student loan debt for people making less than $125k per year and $20k for Pell Grant borrowers is being celebrated by a number of Native education advocates.
At the same time, circumstances unique to Natives should have compelled the Biden administration to do more to cancel more of their debt, some advocates argue. According to stats gathered by the Postsecondary National Policy Institute, Native American students are more likely to need and receive grant aid assistance than other students, but they are less likely to take out student loans:
In 2015 – 16, 90% of Native American students received some type of grant aid, compared with 77% of all students.
38% of Native American undergraduate students take out a federal student loan, compared to 55% of all students.
The Education Data Initiative further reports that American Indian and Alaska Native student borrowers currently owe the highest monthly payments of all races.
What Native education experts are saying re: the Biden plan: “It is a good step, but more help is needed,” Cynthia Lindquist, president of Cankdeska Cikana Community College, tells Indigenous Wire. “A student who comes from endemic poverty does not have the skills to fully understand taking out a loan, let alone the long-term implications.”
Linquist adds that most all tribal colleges, where a substantial number of Native students choose to attend, have gotten “out of the loan ‘business’ as it came back to haunt us regarding default rates and being eligible to disburse federal financial aid.”
More: “My students need financial literacy training that includes the basics of budgeting, planning, and saving,” Lindquist says. “Sometimes there is a ‘clash’ of living in a capitalistic society and trying to be Dakota, wherein we share (give away) everything, especially when asked or when we see inequities. I have employees and community members who did take out student loans and who are struggling to make payments, including several wherein their paycheck has been garnished to make the payment. Working and/or living on an Indian reservation should readily qualify as paying back any federally-insured student loan! Indians who live and work in urban areas as health or education workers, should all have access to debt forgiveness for service in those professions.”
Further: “I paid back $40,000 in student loans, but I support forgiving student loans for others as an economic stimulus strategy,” Aaron Payment, director of government relations with the National Indian Health Board, recently shared on social media.
“It was hard paying it back but I did,” said Payment. “College should be free as an equity factor so anyone who wants a college degree, vocational certificate or job training, should have access. Working people rely less on social welfare so why not support doing whatever we can to help everyone be gainfully employed?”
Side note: Some colleges, tribes and states offer special assistance programs to Native students to try to combat generally low Native graduation rates and attendance at institutions of higher education.
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My loans were forgiven through PSLF after I had paid $108K over 12 years on $106K in loans. My wife, a SAHM, has $70K in loans. We were forced to switch to married filing separately so that her payments weren't 10% of my earnings when repayment restarts. But without addressing the policy choice of student loan interest (current 6% for new loans for graduate students) forgiving $10K does nothing because many grad students would incur that amount of interest before this Administration is out, if it weren't for the payment freeze. We need Congress to make the policy choice that educational loans shoudn't incur interest, period. That's what investing in our future is all about.
Rob, Good article.