Sep. 1—Following a controversial new program put forward by President Joe Biden, those with college loan debt can see up to $20,000 forgiven from their total balance. The students of Somerset Community College are no exception to this program, and many have already taken advantage of it.
CEO and President of SCC Dr. Carey Castle is optimistic about the program.
"It's a good thing for students, if that's what they're after. and who wouldn't want to be after that?" Dr. Castle said.
Dr. Castle, however, did have some reservations of the program and questioned its usefulness.
"I'm kind of on the fence with this one, because our students are adults—full grown folks that know what they want to do. They are probably very knowledgable of what they're getting into," said Dr. Castle. "So I think for most of them, this is just good fortune for them. I'm not sure that it's always an easy answer for them, but if it were available, I would expect them to take it."
Dr. Castle however noted that the program had still not fully taken effect, and its impact on students would not be fully known for a while.
"Because it's still kind of up in the air, there's not a lot we know about, nor really what our students are thinking at this point. I think a lot of them are waiting to see what happens next," said Dr. Castle. "Of our students last year, we had roughly, roughly 405 students that received loans that would be eligible for this program."
Dr. Castle was right about the students of SCC still being unsure of the benefits of the loan forgiveness, and many had alternate opinions about how successful it would be.
Bryan Whitson, a mentor and student at SCC, was able to avoid taking out loans by taking dual credit classes during his high school years. He noted that he may have to take out loans if he decides to go on to a 4-year university after SCC.
Whitson liked the idea of the program but was unsure about the program's qualifications.
Said Whitson, "I would say certainly that the qualifications for it were a little loose. They gave it a little too freely. I definitely feel it's a resource that should be used and forgive for those who are in need, but I feel like they're giving it out a little sparingly."
Freshman nursing student Courtney Brett said that she may use the program as her loan debt continues to grow. She described herself as grateful and relieved by the option.
Fellow nursing student Alex Muse echoed this sentiment and estimated that about half of the pair's nursing cohort have some amount of government loan.
Unlike her friend, Muse did not qualify for loan forgiveness. While neutral about her loans not being forgiven, she had concerns of the fairness of the program.
"I mean, I don't care either way, I mean I'm the one taking out the loans in the first place, so it doesn't bother me," said Muse. "I just don't think it's fair that other people get them forgiven, and some don't."
Freshman student Diane was grateful not for her own debt forgiveness but instead on behalf of her mother.
"I'm just now starting out my college journey. I have about $5,000 in student loans, but my mom she owed $17,000 in student loans and now I think she owes $5,000," she said.
Diane however echoed Muse's sentiment about the qualifications for forgiveness.
"I'd say [the loan forgiveness program] is kind of neutral. Not everybody benefits from it. But it was good for my mom!" She said and laughed.
Ultimately, the students and Dr. Castle agreed that the loan forgiveness was beneficial to some, but whether or not the program will truly help the students of SCC tackle the expense of college remains to be seen.