In US, student debt plan a relief to those struggling with loans
When Roman De La Cruz learned that some of his student debt could be forgiven, he breathed "a huge sigh of relief."
The 27-year-old, who like millions of Americans borrowed heavily to finance his college education, worried he would have to live from one paycheck to another to pay back the $27,000 he owed.
But because he makes less than $125,000 a year, De La Cruz will see $10,000 wiped off his debt under a plan announced by US President Joe Biden on Wednesday.
"I was a little worried," De La Cruz told AFP. "I was barely going to make it."
The debt forgiveness is intended to ease the burden on tens of millions of young Americans. US universities can charge anywhere from $10,000 to $70,000 a year, leaving graduates with a heavy burden as they start their careers.
De La Cruz, who graduated from Appalachian State University in 2019 and is now a geologist living in suburban Washington, estimates that his college education cost him about $55,000.
"I was mainly worried that I was going to have to live paycheck by paycheck. And no one wants to live that way," he said.
The proposed debt relief falls far short of some Democrats' goal of securing complete forgiveness, but is opposed by Republicans who argue that shaving any amount from loans is unfair to those who have already spent years saving to pay off their own debts.
There was also immediate debate over whether effectively giving millions of people a cash injection will stoke already rampant inflation.
At Howard University in the US capital, students broadly welcomed Biden's plan, but some want him to go further.
"I definitely think that college should be free," said Amarie Betancourt, a 20-year-old journalism student.
Vivian Santos-Smith, who is studying political science, said debt weighs on students.
"It definitely does allow anxiety and hesitation," the 20-year-old said. "I want to get a PhD, but on a side note, what I have to think about is how much money that education costs."
Americans still in college are less directly affected by the debt forgiveness, but some could still benefit from it if their parents meet certain income requirements.
On Howard's campus, talking about debt is common among students, Betancourt said.
"A lot of us are struggling to pay tuition. People set up GoFundMe, people have to drop out, take semesters off," she said.
Without a scholarship, a year of study at the university costs $40,000. With such a high price tag, Theodora Nkwogu, 19, has to borrow $15,000 per year.
"You do all this education and you kind of want, like, some assurance that it's not going to waste and that you're not going to be, like, completely broke when you leave college," said the second-year student.
"When you graduate, it's like you got your certificate, your diploma and you're... done, and you're going on to a career and moving on in life, but with the student loan, you're still tied back to here."