Latino/a/x 2022 graduates at California State University, Long Beach. Credit: Courtesy, Teresa Puene

As a college professor, I welcome news of student loan forgiveness from the Biden Administration.

It’s too late for me. I graduated from college with $20,000 in debt and I paid it off in 10 years. I also went to graduate school and accumulated another $20,000 in debt and I just finished paying that off last year.

I harbor no resentments like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who bragged that he paid off his $100,000 in student loans by writing a book. This loan forgiveness with help Latino graduates, many of them in the first-generation to go to college.

The Biden administration is canceling up to $10,000 in federal loan debt and an additional $10,000 if the student was a Pell Grant recipient. To qualify, one must earn less than $125,000 or less than $250,000 for couples filing taxes jointly.

President Biden also extended the payment pause on federal student loans one final time through 2022 and set a cap repayment of 5% of one’s monthly income.

This debt forgiveness could make a huge impact in the lives of my students. I’ve seen students graduate with tens of thousands of dollars in student debt. Carrying so much debt is almost insurmountable especially if they pursue a career in fields that pay less such as teaching or the nonprofit sector.

The debt forgiveness will help Latino graduates, according to Excelencia in Education, a leading educational think tank that focuses on Latino college completion

Among undergraduate students who began in 2012 (the latest data available), 51% of Latino students borrowed to pay for their undergraduate or graduate education, according to Excelencia in Education.

The initial $10,000 of federal student loan forgiveness will allow about half of all Latino borrowers to have their entire debt forgiven, according to Excelencia.

Of those Latinos who have borrowed to pay for college, 23% took out loans under $10,000 and 26% received loans of between $10,000 and $50,000.

Almost 70% of Latino student borrowers have educational debt, according to the Education Data Initiative. 33% of Hispanic student borrowers say they put off getting married due to their student loan debt, and 37% of Hispanic borrowers delayed having children due to debt, according to the initiative.

A majority of Latinos with student loan debt (60%) expressed that this debt has affected their ability to save for retirement, and 57% reported student loan debt has affected their decision to buy a house, according to a new survey from UnidosUS.  Those percentages increase for respondents with a four-year degree — 70% and 69% respectively.   

Latinos are more than likely than non-Latino whites to default on their loans — 35% compared to 20%, according to Excelencia in Education.

It’s a positive move that President Biden has made good on his campaign promises on student debt.

But the loan forgiveness doesn’t address the rising cost of higher education in the U.S.

I taught for almost 10 years at a private college in Chicago where the average tuition is around $30,000 a year. This is a relative bargain when you consider what other private schools cost, the University of Chicago at $60,000 a year, the University of Southern California also $60,000 and Harvard University around $54,000. And in most cases that doesn’t include room and board.

As an educator, I wondered whether the degree was worth the debt. I had students in Chicago with more than $50,000 in debt. This was one of the reasons I decided to move to California and teach at California State University, Long Beach where the average tuition is around $7,000 for in-state students.

Many of my students receive financial aid and Pell grants and the loan forgiveness could mean they graduate debt free. They may pursue careers of their choice and not worry about paying  off unsurmountable loans. 

Education is a human right and it’s time this country values students over profit.

Teresa Puente has spent her career reporting on immigration and Latino issues in the U.S. and has also reported extensively from Mexico. Previously, she was a staff reporter at the Chicago Tribune and...