Explaining student loan forgiveness: Local expert answers common questions

Student Loan Advocate Scott Kemp with the Virginia College Access Network weighs in

We spoke to an expert who breaks down the new plan

ROANOKE, Va. – You’re not alone if you’re struggling to repay your student debt.

10 News spoke to Student Loan Advocate Scott Kemp with the Virginia College Access Network. His job is to help Virginians with student debt questions.

“‘What can we do to help with the student loan situation?’ And my answer is: cut the cost of college,” Kemp said. “The main thing is helping out borrowers that are in different levels of distress.”

President Biden’s announcement of student debt forgiveness on Wednesday left some Americans wondering, “Who is it really helping?”

“The reality is that 56% of borrowers have $20,000 or less,” Kemp said. “And so really while this proposal, while there are some concerns about it, it is focusing in on the highest need.”

Kemp said the largest number of loan defaults come from those who did not finish college.

“They’re trying to give them a fresh start,” Kemp said. “Get these loans off their books, so that they can hopefully come back into secondary education, finish the degree, get a job and be able to make family-sustaining wages.”

Some Americans are confused as to if they qualify for the $20,000 relief from receiving a Pell Grant.

“They either classify them as a pell recipient or not. They don’t create a third category or more than 50% or less than 50%,” Kemp said. “I think we can say with pretty good confidence that if they got a Pell Grant at any point during their college career then they qualify for this.”

Critics of Biden’s plan include those who already paid back their student loans and will not receive any reimbursement.

“People that scrimped and saved, worked second and third jobs so they didn’t have to take out these loans,” Kemp said. “I don’t know how that will play out in the long run, whether there’s going to be some other credit for, but specifically in the short term right now they’re targeting those that have loans.”

Kemp said that before the student debt crisis can really be solved, the cost of higher education must be addressed.

“If it costs less, then people are having to borrow less. That’s one part of it,” Kemp said. “The other part is helping future students and current students figure out what the limits are, what is the cost of attendance, and realizing that it’s an estimate from the college but it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to borrow up to that full amount.”

10 News is working for you to answer any questions you may still have about the student debt forgiveness plan, and you can read those answers here.

Share how the student loan forgiveness plan impacts your family here.

About the Author:

Abbie Coleman officially joined the WSLS 10 News team in January 2023.