District residents continue to express support for President Biden’s plan to eliminate $10,000 of federal student loan debt for eligible borrowers but some believe it doesn’t go far enough.
“A once-in-a-generation opportunity to eliminate student loan debt squandered,” tweeted Zachary Parker, the Democratic Party nominee for the Ward 5 D.C. Council seat, on Aug. 24.
“Democrats won’t likely have the White House, Senate and House for another generation,” he said. “While the political will might not have been there for legislation, it would have been great for an executive order to set a precedent that would have been politically unpopular to overturn.”
Biden formally announced his plans on Aug. 24 to cancel up to $10,000 in student debt for borrowers without Pell Grants and earning less than $125,000 a year and up to $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients. He also extended the pause in repayment until Dec. 31.
District borrowers carry some of the highest average student loan debt in the nation, owing an average of $55,500, according to March 2022 data from the Federal Student Aid Office.
Parker holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Communication Disorders/African American Studies from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and a Master of Arts in Education Leadership and Policy from Teachers College, Columbia University in New York City.
He currently pays on his student loan debt. Parker said he appreciates Biden’s effort but more should have been done.
“It is good that the president has gone further on this than any of his predecessors but $10,000 is not very much considering some people owe hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he said.
Troy Donte Prestwood, the president of the Ward 8 Democrats, articulated similar sentiments as a guest commentator on WTTG-TV (Channel 5)’s “The Final 5” on Aug. 24.
“This is a big deal for the president and he can check this off as a win,” Prestwood said. “It is enough? I don’t think it is but it is a good start.”
Prestwood owns a public relations firm, The Prestwood Group, and has served as an advisory neighborhood commissioner in Ward 8. He attended Howard and American universities. He said a strong likelihood exists that he will pay on his student loans “until I die.”
“This should have been a great big wipe away,” he said. “It’s really a drop in the bucket.”
Prestwood said student loans serve as the primary means for many middle-and-low-income students, mainly those of color, for obtaining a college education. He talked about being the first member of his family to get a college education and believes Biden’s actions will help working-class people financially.
Sheika Reid, who works in commercial real estate in the District, labeled Biden’s actions “great” but like Parker and Prestwood said it didn’t go far enough.
“This will help a lot of people in a small way,” Reid said. “It is also good that the president extended the pause for repayment of students’ loans because of COVID-19 until the end of the year.”
Reid, a Howard University graduate, said she’d like to continue her education at Howard but sees that as problematic at this time.
“I would love to pursue an MBA at Howard,” Reid said. “But I would have to go into further debt to do it.”