Thousands of Fresno Pacific University undergraduate students and alumni would benefit greatly from the loan forgiveness program proposed by President Joe Biden.
For example, most students who took out loans since 2018 would have the majority of their federal debt erased, according to estimates by the FPU Student Financial Services Office. (The program forgives loans made before 2018, but earlier figures for the university were not immediately available.)
From 2018-2022, 5,256 FPU students across all traditional and bachelor’s degree completion programs took out federal loans, making them eligible for up to $10,000 in loan forgiveness. Of that group, 4,017 received Pell Grants, making them eligible for a total of up to $20,000 in loan forgiveness under Biden’s plan.
Each of the 5,256 students, graduates and alumni borrowed an average of $15,080 in federal funds, while the 4,017 Pell Grant recipients who borrowed took out an average $15,553 each. Biden’s plan would forgive 79.7% of the debt of all borrowers and 84.7% of the debt of borrowers who received Pell Grants.
Students who borrowed for their teaching credential would share in the benefit. From 2018-2022, 997 credential students borrowed an average $16,304. Among them were 737 borrowers who received Pell Grants, averaging $17,009 each. All federal borrowers would have 77.4% of their loans forgiven, with Pell recipients having $17,009 forgiven. In all, $63,161,107 of the $79,258,793 borrowed by eligible students—undergraduate and credential—through federal programs since 2018 would be forgiven.
College debt falls most heavily on graduates who come from families of lower incomes and people of color as well as graduates just starting their career. “These are the very students who attend FPU in the greatest numbers,” said FPU President André Stephens, Ph.D. “Even a modest debt at this time in their lives can have a lasting effect that makes it harder for them to enjoy the well-documented economic and social benefits of higher education. College debt can be debilitating just at the time graduates should be building success for themselves, their families and their communities.”
Some 95% of FPU students receive financial aid, and 67% come from families earning less than $40,000 a year. More than half of students (54%) identify as Hispanic, and 49% are the first in their families to attend a university.
While state Cal Grants and federal grants, which do not need to be repaid, are the largest providers of financial aid, federal loan programs are also important to many students and families. According to the U.S. Department of Education College Scorecard, 59% of FPU students take out an average of $23,219 in federal loans over their student career. Payments on those loans average $232 a month. (More at Fresno Pacific University | College Scorecard (ed.gov))
Nationwide, the plan could help 95% of the 43 million federal student loan borrowers, according to Inside Higher Education. In keeping with the intention to help students from middle- and lower-income backgrounds, loan forgiveness would be restricted to individual borrowers earning less than $125,000 a year and families earning less than $250,000.
Biden’s plan also extends the two-year pause on college loan payments to January 2023. Before the pause, FPU’s loan default rate was 4.5%, a drop from the prior two years and below the national default rate of 7.3% at the time.
More information on the program at whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2022/08/24/fact-sheet-president-biden-announces-student-loan-relief-for-borrowers-who-need-it-most/. Information for potential beneficiaries at The Biden-Harris Administration's Student Debt Relief Plan Explained (studentaid.gov)