Betsy Mills, 2008 Ball State University graduate and 2010 master’s graduate, serves as the president of the Ball State Young Alumni Council and chair of the College of Communication, Information and Media Alumni Council.
Mills just paid off her student loans a few months prior to September, but her partner of 15 years, a Ball State graduate, is still paying off her loans. Her romantic partner took out “10’s of 1000’s of dollars in student loans” to acquire her undergraduate, masters and two doctorate degrees.
Ben Yoder, 2007 Ball State graduate, was a founding member of the Young Alumni Council, and he later served as the organization's president from 2019-2021.
Yoder, like Mills, paid-off his loans prior to Biden’s announcement and the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Yoder just entered his first semester for his master’s degree.
“I will definitely expect to take out loans again, at some point,” Yoder said. “I think it's something that now I'm a little bit more equipped to plan for because I understand a little bit more about how that works now that I've been through it once and understand it now.”
Aug. 24, President Joe Biden announced his student loan forgiveness plan. According to a statement from the White House, this plan forgives up to $20,000 of student loans for Pell Grant recipients and $10,000 to non-Pell Grant recipients.
Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan has three steps: provide targeted debt relief to address the financial harms of COVID-19, make the student loan system more manageable for current and future borrowers and protect future students and taxpayers by reducing the cost of college and holding schools accountable when they hike up prices.
Borrowers are eligible for this relief if their individual income is $125,000 or less and $250,000 or less for married couples. Individuals and households in the top five percent of incomes will not benefit from this action, according to a statement from the White House.
“To ensure a smooth transition to repayment and prevent unnecessary defaults, the pause on federal student loan repayment will be extended one final time through Dec. 31, 2022,” the White House said in a statement.
Payment is expected to resume Jan. 2023.
Yoder advises students to be informed and educated about loans as well as staying engaged with politics.
“You agree to take out a loan, you pay back the loan,” Mills said. “They can't strip you of your degrees. If I don't pay for my car payment, well, they can come and take my car. I don't pay for my mortgage, they can come and take my house, but they can't – you can't – be stripped of your college degrees.”
To pay off Mills’ partner’s loans, $600-$700 a month is not coming into their household. Mills’ sisters, who also attended Ball State, paid off their loans within 10 years.
The student loan forgiveness plan won’t help Mills’ sisters, but it could potentially help Mills and her partner with their loans. Despite Mills seeing the use in Biden’s student loan forgiveness for her, she disagrees with the philosophy of it.
She believes interest free loans would help students more.
“There's too much interest on student loans, [and] there's predatory student loans,” Mills said. “Instead of wiping away the debt, we still have that exact problem.”
Like Mills, Yoder agrees that interest free loans would help students, but he also agrees with Biden’s forgiveness loans.
“I think that it is an investment in people,” Yoder said.
He talked about the loans given out for businesses during the pandemic, PPP (public-private partnership) loans, and how those were forgiven. He equated those loans to Biden’s current student loan forgiveness plan.
He also believes larger amounts of loans can be forgiven, instead of the current $10,000. Both Yoder and Mills said there isn’t a general consensus of opinion on Biden’s student loan forgiveness. Both agree it’s a “mixed-bag,” some agree with the forgiveness loan, and some disagree.
For 13 years, starting in 2010, Mills has been working at Penn State University teaching communications. Seven out of the 13 years, Mills worked on the Pennsylvania campus, and for the last five years, she has worked remotely in Indiana.
“I am a professor, I care about higher education,” Mills said. “I've chosen to work in this realm, as has my partner. This is not the way to support it. If we want to really support students, we stop raising tuition, we find ways to keep tuition low. We stop administrative bloat.”
Current students are eligible for this relief plan. Dependent students’ eligibility is based on parental income, instead of student income.
At Ball State, more than 80 percent of students qualify for financial aid, Paula Luff, vice president for enrollment planning and management, said via email.
“The University offers a variety of services and programs designed to help students find ways to meet the costs of education, including scholarships, need-based grants and employment opportunities,” Luff said.
According to Luff, the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships has tips to help “maximize” financial aid:
“Completing federal tax returns early
Filing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
Frequently checking and responding to correspondence
Searching for additional aid accepting loan offers
Keeping personal information current
Consulting with the University’s financial aid advisors
Coming prepared with requested or necessary documentation
Protecting yourself and your money”
The cumulative federal student loan debt is $1.6 trillion, the White House said in their statement, and this debt is rising for more than 45 million borrowers.
These debts make it harder for borrowers to accrue wealth by buying homes, putting away for retirement and starting small businesses, the White House said.
Ball State does offer “financial wellness resources to students through external financial partners,” Luff said. These resources are intended to help students understand credit, balance a budget, buy a home, learn about inflation and decrease financial stressors.