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American Indian College Fund lauds debt relief plan

President Joe Biden announced a student loan debt forgiveness package Aug. 24 at the White House. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona joined him at the announcement. (Image: White House Facebook)

President Joe Biden announced Aug. 24 that college undergraduate and graduate students would soon receive forgiveness of up to $10,000 in federal student loan debt for borrowers making under $125,000 a year or couples making less than $250,000 a year. Those who borrowed money under the Pell Grant program for low-income students would qualify for up to $20,000 in debt forgiveness. Private loans would not be forgiven.

About 43 million Americans have federal student loan debt equaling an estimated $1.6 trillion, according to recent federal data.

Biden also announced an extension of the Covid-19 pandemic pause on student loan payments through the end of 2022. Those payments would resume in January 2023.

The U.S. Department of Education said nearly 8 million borrowers are likely to have their loans forgiven automatically because the agency already has information about their income. The remaining borrowers would have to apply for loan forgiveness, and the applications would become available no later than Dec. 31 when the freeze on student loan payments ends.

“The College Fund is pleased that President Biden has announced a package of debt relief for current college students and graduates,” Cheryl Crazy Bull, president and CEO of the American Indian College Fund, said in a statement.

Crazy Bull said affordable access to higher education for Indigenous students was lacking until the 1960s and that “creating those pathways to higher education was the intention of the founders of the tribal college movement.” She said the creation of tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) led to the establishment of the College Fund in 1989 to provide scholarships for Native students.

“President Biden’s announcement bolsters their efforts to ensure that Native students who want a higher education can get one,” Crazy Bull said.

She cited the 2022 “National Study on College Affordability for Indigenous Students” that showed sufficient financial resources are still unavailable for Native students.

“It is clear college loans are a deterrent to the financial health and well being of Native students and graduates,” Crazy Bull said. “Native students share the main reason they pursue a college education is to give back to their families and their tribal communities.”

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