I am a mother of two, and my student debt is crushing my family. Forgiving student loans can help us escape the circle of poverty.

  • Biden has promised to forgive $ 10,000 in student loans, but it’s not enough.
  • After I graduated, I was hit with legal costs from my divorce, which prevented me from paying my loans.
  • I went to graduate school to get a higher paying job, but now the interest on my loans is burying me. I want a better future for my children.
  • Emily Withnall is a freelance writer and fellow at Community Change. She lives in Missoula, Montana.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • Visit Insider’s Business section for more stories

Money to move was at the top of my oldest teen’s Christmas list this year. Alex is a senior in high school and should be applying for college. But because of my own crippling student loan debt, my kids’ choices are limited. For now, Alex chooses not to go to college in the near future. This choice hurts.

I don’t have the means to give Alex money to move. Instead, on Christmas morning, I watched with humiliation as my children unwrap identical gifts, their faces shining with joy. They were excited to receive new sheets.

My kids have had the same old sheets covered in pastel colored butterflies for over twelve years. As a single parent, paying my bills and paying off credit card debt while raising two children is a relentless act. Paying for dance or taekwondo means I don’t often change our towels and sheets. We eat a lot of beans and rice. College accounts and retirement funds are fantasies.

Like many Americans, I am what you would call a permalancer: I juggle part-time jobs and temporary contract gigs to keep myself afloat. In 2018, I made a total of $ 18,811 for the year. In 2019 I made $ 22,908. Without going is my main strategy, but this approach cannot resolve my student loan debt. Paying back the $ 81,000 I owe feels completely impossible.

Just forgiving $ 10,000 isn’t enough

As a senator in 2005, President Joe Biden backed a bill that expanded the number of loans students could borrow while making almost impossible for people with a huge student loan to go out of businessThis bill helped lenders but added to what has been a growing student loan crisis for the past 15 years. Senator Elizabeth Warren, who opposed this bill in 2005, is again urging Biden to undo this legislation. So far, Biden has been alone promised to forgive $ 10,000 of everyone’s student loans

In early February, Senator Warren, Senator Chuck Schumer and Representative Ayanna Pressly reintroduction of student loan forgiveness resolution That calls on Biden to forgive $ 50,000 for every federal student loan borrower through executive measures. But at a town hall on Tuesday night, President Biden claimed he lacked authority to forgive more than $ 10,000 per borrower – the senators and representatives behind the proposed resolution claim Biden has the authority.

As a borrower, I call on President Biden and Congress to move forward. Forgetting $ 10,000 of my college debt doesn’t even cover the interest I’ve accrued. And while forgiving $ 50,000 would be a significant step in the right direction, many borrowers would still struggle under the weight of their remaining balances.

I was buried in legal fees before I could pay off my loans

I graduated from a small college in New Mexico in 2007 with a total of $ 24,950 in student loans. The average student loan debt for a bachelor’s degree in the US is $ 25,921. so I was glad I kept it below average, while raising two kids under four. I divorced six months after graduation, but soon got a steady job paying $ 26,000 a year.

When my grace period ended and I started making small payments on my student loans, my abusive ex-husband started taking me to court. His lawsuits were aggressive and frequent – about every four months, for five years. I soon realized that I would need a lawyer to deal with the many lawsuits.

Retaining legal advice is costly, but with careful budgeting, I managed to pay off more than $ 60,000 in legal debt. Still, there was nothing left for student loans, and I began to default on them. A credit company even sued me. They determined that I would go to court or add thousands of dollars to what I already owed. I was no match for a student loan company, so I took the latter option and added more debt to my debt.

In the 1960s the tuition fees were low enough that a student could work part-time and pay it off easilyWith stagnant wages, less paid jobs and rising living costs, this is no longer true. Student loans promise a promise they can no longer keep: if we invest in our future, we will reap the rewards. But this future no longer exists. Those of us who strive to pay off our loans against all odds are often undermined when other financial difficulties arise. For me they were difficult procedures, but for others they were medical emergencies or car trouble.

When I was looking for better paid work, every job in my profession required a master’s degree. I looked for months before I decided graduate school was my ticket to financial security. When I got in, I moved myself and my kids – then six and nine years old – to Montana. I got enough help to cover my college fees, but still had to take out more loans to cover the rent and bills. In 2015, I finished graduate school with a debt of $ 43,441. Despite the higher cost of living in Missoula, Montana, I was able to keep my debts under control the $ 66,000 average that borrowers typically accrue for a master’s degree. As a single parent I have worked outside of class as much as possible to make this possible.

Five years later, interest rates on my loans have gone up and I now owe nearly $ 81,000 – nearly $ 13,000 more than I took out in the first place. And the numbers continue to rise.

Student loan debt is linked to inequality

Like reported in 2020, women have two-thirds of student loan debt. In addition, A 2019 study found student loan debt is much greater for black AmericansTo: “The typical black student borrower took out about $ 3,000 more in loans than his white peers; but 20 years after starting school, the typical black borrower owed about $ 17,500 more than his white peers. nearly half of white borrowers were student debt-free (49 percent), while only a quarter of black borrowers were able to pay off all their loans (26 percent). ”

Not only would the forgiveness of student loans keep more people housed and fed, but it would also help narrow the wealth gap between men and women and the gap between races and wealth.

Naysayers argue that student loan forgiveness would not be fair to people who have paid off their loans, but it is a move that would boost the economy and benefit everyone. A 2018 report concludes that universal student debt cancellation would increase GDP by about $ 100 billion a year and result in the creation of up to 1.55 million jobs per year. Like the Debt Collective, a union organized around debt cancellation writes, “Most people are not in debt because they live beyond their means; they are in debt because they have been denied the means to live.” This should not be a partisan issue.

While my kids received more than just sheets at Christmas, I remain concerned with their enjoyment of a simple household item. I want more for them. I want Alex to be able to go to college, but I don’t want my kids to get stuck in a predatory system designed to hold them down through crippling debt. Full student loan forgiveness would give families like mine more opportunities and help my children escape the circle of poverty.

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