Daniel Park, a sociology major in his fifth year at UCSB, received a Pell Grant, a Cal Grant, has taken out subsidized and unsubsidized loans, and received an emergency grant at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He also works a part-time job as a barista, and has done other work to pay for his tuition, housing, food and other essentials while attending UCSB.

Under President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan, Park said he expects to wipe out two-thirds of his remaining debt.

“I feel mostly relieved and happy that I’m able to accept this loan forgiveness,” Park said. “[Debt] is one of my biggest stressors that I thought about as I’m about to graduate soon. It takes such a huge weight off my shoulders.”

On Aug. 24, the Biden administration along with the U.S. Department of Education announced a plan of student loan forgiveness up to $20,000. In 2022 alone, 50.5 million Americans attending public universities received federal student loans.

According to a fact sheet published by the White House, “The Department of Education will provide up to $20,000 in loan relief to borrowers with loans held by the Department of Education whose individual income is less than $125,000 ($250,000 for married couples) and who received a Pell Grant.”

Pell Grants are typically given to undergraduate students who require “exceptional financial need,” according to Studentaid.gov.

Those who did not receive a Pell Grant but still meet those standards can receive up to $10,000 in loan relief.

With the loan forgiveness, Park said he will be able to pay back his loans faster and start saving for a car and housing.

“I’m getting less financial aid every year,” Park said. “The older you get throughout college, the less you want to take out loans because you’re slowly coming to the realization that you have to start paying them off.

“I feel like all of those things — the car and having my own place — would take much, much longer in my 20s to do if it weren’t for this loan forgiveness, so I’m very happy about it.”

The total student debt in the United States is $1.75 trillion borrowed in federal and private loans with the average borrower owning $28,950, according to Forbes.

At UCSB, 7,958 students received a Pell Grant of an average $5,304 for the 2021-22 school year alone.

The cost of undergraduate tuition and fees at UCSB in the 2021-22 school year was $14,416.98 for in-state tuition and  $44,170.98 for out-of-state tuition. The average cost of tuition at a public four-year university is $10,338 for in-state tuition and $22,698 for out-of-state tuition, according to U.S. News.

According to Ryan King, associate director of media relations of the UC Office of the President, 55% of University of California undergraduates pay no tuition or fees.

In 2021, 77,647 undergraduate students in the UC system received Pell Grants, according to King.

“We continue to work to provide students with even more pathways to a debt-free degree,” King wrote in a statement to Noozhawk.

Noozhawk published a callout asking how student loan forgiveness would impact readers. Though no responses were current students, or still paying off their loans, several readers shared their opinions on the forgiveness. 

A common critique mentioned by several commenters to Noozhawk was that students should not pursue a degree they cannot afford. However, college used to be more affordable — and subsidized by the government.

In 1963, the average cost of room, board and tuition for a four-year public university was $929, which adjusted for inflation is equivalent to $7,923, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The average cost of tuition alone for a public four-year university such as UCSB was $243, or $2,076 adjusted for inflation. However, the UC system did not charge tuition until 1970.

In the 2020-21 school year, the average cost of room, board and tuition at a public, four-year university was $21,337. 

Part-time jobs used to pay more, too. In 1965, the minimum wage was $1.25, which in today’s dollars is about $11.48, according to Statista. Today, it is $7.25.

“Older generations of college students didn’t have as much debt not because they were more individually virtuous but because they benefited from a collective social investment in their education,” Ronald Brownstein wrote in The Atlantic. “Many of those arguing against debt forgiveness … seem to be conveniently forgetting all of the ways the government provided ‘benefits to baby boomers.’”

“No one should be in debt however many thousands and thousands of dollars to get a college education,” Park said. 

Park also mentioned that after earning a part of his degree over Zoom during the pandemic, he feels like he was not paying for what he fully got from his education.

“I think the quality of education was definitely watered down and with technology everywhere,” Park said. “Everything’s different now. College education, higher education is always changing.

Though he is relieved to receive the forgiveness, Park said he is also skeptical about the legitimacy of the loan forgiveness as well as if the U.S. economy will suffer consequences. 

“I know that’s silly to say, but I just feel that a lot of promises made by the government — whether it’s free health care, or raising the minimum wage and all this other stuff — is really performative sometimes.”

Though the loan forgiveness program is only planned as a one-time effort, Park said that it will still help many students like himself who would be faced with debilitating debt once handed their diploma.

“Everybody deserves the right to higher education,” Park said.

Noozhawk staff writer Grace Kitayama can be reached at gkitayama@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.