Let’s help Ohioans navigate their education debt
Piet van Lier, Policy Matters Ohio | Julie Szeltner, College Now Greater Cleveland
As the debate about education debt forgiveness continues, those of us who still owe student loans have to figure out how to pay them back. It’s not always a simple process. College Now Greater Cleveland has helped nearly 3,000 Ohioans navigate the complexities of borrowing and repaying student loans, saving borrowers an average of $400 per month and an average expected forgiveness of $82,000.
These numbers matter because, overall, Americans owe some $1.7 trillion in education debt. In Ohio alone, nearly 1.8 million student borrowers owe more than $63 billion, and over 310,000 are in delinquency, owing nearly $8 billion. In 2019, 60% of Ohio college graduates carried student loan debt at an average of about $30,000, according to The Institute for College Access and Success.
Student loan forgiveness would free many people from overwhelming debt that limits their lives, including delays in marriage, home ownership, and entrepreneurship, according to this 2019 Washington Post article. This is especially true for Black borrowers, who are overrepresented among debt-holding U.S. households and face barriers to building wealth in other areas, such as discrimination in the housing market.
But forgiveness should be seen as only one part of a bigger solution.
The sheer number of repayment options can be confusing, and that’s where advisors with College Now’s Student Loan Rescue program come in. They help students and former students make the best repayment plan choice and ensure they take all the required steps to correctly apply for a specific repayment plan; making a mistake on an application can leave financially stressed borrowers on the hook for thousands of dollars they shouldn’t have to pay. College Now relies primarily on two federal initiatives — income-driven repayment plans and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program — to provide free individualized advice for everyone from new grads to seasoned professionals with advanced degrees to parents who borrowed for their children’s education.
Ohio policymakers should pay attention to College Now’s success. A statewide “debt navigator” initiative could bring needed help to thousands more Ohioans with education debt and move our state toward its ambitious educational attainment goal that 65% of residents will hold a degree or credential of value in the workplace by 2025.
Steps must be taken to make public higher education more accessible for Ohioans. Ohio currently ranks 45th in terms of college affordability, and increased funding for education is of great importance to ensure more Ohioans can receive the education they need. But, for those in debt, steps must be taken now to help them save money and attain their degrees.
Ohio’s policymakers can learn from College Now’s proven model. A debt navigator system will save Ohio students money and free them to create a better future for themselves — and for Ohio.