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Democrats Call on Biden to Forgive Student Loan Debt, Sparking Online Debates

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  • Democratic politicians like Elizabeth Warren and Chuck Schumer are fighting for student loan forgiveness to be dealt with during President-Elect Joe Biden’s first 100 days in office.
  • At a press conference Monday, Biden did not say whether he would take executive action to address the issue. Instead he referenced plans from the House that would offer $10,000 in loan forgiveness, as well as other plans from his campaign like making education at public colleges and universities free for families making under $125,000 annually and forgiving chunks of debt for public servants.
  • Student debt forgiveness became a large debate online, with some saying it would provide millions with relief and allow them to participate more in the nation’s economy. Meanwhile, others argued that student loan forgiveness is unfair to those who have already paid their debt off.
  • Many also believe other issues affecting student debt should be dealt with instead, like high interest rates and the cost of a college education.

Student Loan Plans in Democratic Party

Democrats are pushing for President-elect Joe Biden to prioritize student debt forgiveness when he enters the White House in January, prompting heated debates online.

Currently, student debt in the U.S. sits at over $1.7 trillion. During a Monday press conference, Biden said that addressing student loan debt was part of his economic plan, but did not say whether or not he would take executive action to address it.

“It does figure into my plan,” Biden said. “I’ve laid out in detail, for example, the legislation passed by the Democratic House calls for immediate $10,000 of student loan forgiveness.” 

“It’s holding people up. They’re in real trouble,” he added. “They’re having to make choices between paying their student loans and paying their rent, those kinds of decisions. It should be done immediately.” 

Biden also referenced student debt relief plans he had touted throughout his campaign. Those include making education at public colleges and universities free for families making under $125,000 annually and forgiving chunks of debt for public servants.

While he did not indicate if executive action will be taken, top Democrats will be pushing for it come January. Earlier in November, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told The Ink he wants the matter addressed in Biden’s first 100 days in office.

“I have a proposal with Elizabeth Warren that the first $50,000 of debt be vanquished, and we believe that Joe Biden can do that with the pen as opposed to legislation,” he said. 

House Representatives Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) have a plan of their own. Back in March the two introduced the Student Debt Emergency Relief Act, which would cancel at least $30,000 in student debt per borrower. Other members of the Squad have joined them in calling for student debt forgiveness, including Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).

Debate Moves to Twitter

This prompted debate on Twitter about student debt and whether or not it should be forgiven. A common argument that many against forgiveness made was that it is unfair to those who have already paid off their debts.

“Those with college debt will be thrilled, of course,” one person wrote. “But lots and lots of people who didn’t go to college or who worked to pay off their debts? Gonna be bad.”

“Things were bad for me, so they should stay bad for everyone else” is not a good argument against debt cancellation – student, medical, or otherwise,” Ocasio-Cortez said to counter the popular argument. 

Many who had already paid off their debts but still supported forgiveness also spoke out, including actor Kumail Nanjiani. 

Others noted the many implications eliminating student loan debt will have, including the fact that this kind of debt disproportionately impacts women, specifically Black women. 

Many also argued the benefits this would have as people struggle financially because of the coronavirus. 

“Canceling student loan debt doesn’t just help [those in debt], it frees many of them up to help stimulate a struggling economy during the pandemic,” one person wrote.

What Experts Are Saying

Thoughts on whether or not student debt forgiveness is the best solution to this crisis are not just mixed on Twitter, but among financial experts as well. Back in August, Forbes spoke to a dozen financial experts about their ideas on the subject. 

“There are merits,” entrepreneur David Gokhshtein said. “If debtors currently struggling to make their student loan payments have increased available income, that money will be spent in other places. This could create an increase in home loans, small business startups, tourism and general retail purchase increases. Though, perhaps this should be on a case-by-case basis or through a qualified enrollment program.”

He was not alone in thinking there would be positive effects on the economy should debt be forgiven. 

“Student loan debt hinders the start of a promising career,” Sam Singh, founder of CFO Base added. “Many potential entrepreneurs put their spirit on hold for a corporate job based on salary to pay the debt, while turning down offers from small businesses with less of a budget. This creates more failed startups and hurts our GDP.”

However, others argued there might be better fixes, including interest-free loans or increasing financial literacy among young people. Many accept student loans when they are just teenagers about to enter college and have little understanding of what they are and what they could mean for them down the line.  

Some also thought that loan forgiveness is merely a bandaid solution to a larger problem, which is how expensive college tuition has become. Because of this, Matthew Cuplin of Midwest Financial Group said it opens up “Pandora’s Box with regards to many questions.” 

“Who gets it canceled?” he asked. “What about those who made sacrifices and saved for this expense? Does it devalue the importance of the experience? Would students take it less seriously?”

See what others are saying: (Forbes) (New York Times) (CNBC)

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Lincoln College to Close for Good After COVID and Ransomware Attack Ruin Finances

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Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.


One of the Only Historically Black Colleges in the Midwest Goes Down

After 157 years of educating mostly Black students in Illinois, Lincoln College will close its doors for good on Friday.

The college made the announcement last month, citing financial troubles caused by the coronavirus pandemic and a ransomware attack in December.

Enrollment dropped during the pandemic and the administration had to make costly investments in technology and campus safety measures, according to a statement from the school.

A shrinking endowment put additional pressure on the college’s budget.

The ransomware attack, which the college has said originated from Iran, thwarted admissions activities and hindered access to all institutional data. Systems for recruitment, retention, and fundraising were completely inoperable at a time when the administration needed them most.

In March, the college paid the ransom, which it has said amounted to less than $100,000. But according to Lincoln’s statement, subsequent projections showed enrollment shortfalls so significant the college would need a transformational donation or partnership to make it beyond the present semester.

The college put out a request for $50 million in a last-ditch effort to save itself, but no one came forward to provide it.

A GoFundMe aiming to raise $20 million for the college only collected $2,452 as of Tuesday.

Students and Employees Give a Bittersweet Goodbye

“The loss of history, careers, and a community of students and alumni is immense,” David Gerlach, the college’s president, said in a statement.

Lincoln counts nearly 1,000 enrolled students, and those who did not graduate this spring will leave the institution without degrees.

Gerlach has said that 22 colleges have worked with Lincoln to accept the remaining students, including their credits, tuition prices, and residency requirements.

“I was shocked and saddened by that news because of me being a freshman, so now I have to find someplace for me to go,” one student told WMBD News after the closure was announced.

When a group of students confronted Gerlach at his office about the closure, he responded with an emotional speech.

“I have been fighting hard to save this place,” he said. “But resources are resources. We’ve done everything we possibly could.”

On April 30, alumni were invited back to the campus to revisit the highlights of their college years before the institution closed.

On Saturday, the college held its final graduation ceremony, where over 200 students accepted their diplomas and Quentin Brackenridge performed the Lincoln Alma Mater.

Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Herald Review) (CNN)

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U.S. Tops One Million Coronavirus Deaths, WHO Estimates 15 Million Worldwide

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India’s real COVID death toll stands at about 4.7 million, ten times higher than official data, the WHO estimated.


One Million Dead

The United States officially surpassed one million coronavirus deaths Wednesday, 26 months after the first death was reported in late February of 2020.

Experts believe that figure is likely an undercount, since there are around 200,000 excess deaths, though some of those may not be COVID-related.

The figure is the equivalent of the population of San Jose, the tenth-largest city in the U.S., vanishing in just over two years. To put the magnitude in visual perspective, NECN published a graphic illustrating what one million deaths looks like.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the White House predicted between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans would die from the coronavirus in a best-case scenario.

By February 2021, over half a million Americans had died of COVID.

The coronavirus has become the third leading cause of death in the U.S. behind heart disease and cancer.

The pandemic’s effects go beyond its death toll. Around a quarter of a million children have lost a caregiver to the virus, including about 200,000 who lost one or both parents. Every COVID-related death leaves an estimated nine people grieving.

The virus has hit certain industries harder than others, with food and agriculture, warehouse operations and manufacturing, and transportation and construction seeing especially high death rates.

People’s mental health has also been affected, with a study in January of five Western countries including the U.S. finding that 13% of people reported symptoms of PTSD attributable to actual or potential contact with the virus.

Fifteen Million Dead

On Thursday, the World Health Organization estimated that nearly 15 million people have died from the pandemic worldwide, a dramatic revision from the 5.4 million previously reported in official statistics.

Between January 2020 and the end of last year, the WHO estimated that between 13.3 million and 16.6 million people died either due to the coronavirus directly or because of factors somehow attributed to the pandemic’s impact on health systems, such as cancer patients who were unable to seek treatment when hospitals were full of COVID patients.

Based on that range, scientists arrived at an approximate total of 14.9 million.

The new estimate shows a 13% increase in deaths than is usually expected for a two-year period.

“This may seem like just a bean-counting exercise, but having these WHO numbers is so critical to understanding how we should combat future pandemics and continue to respond to this one,” Dr. Albert Ko, an infectious diseases specialist at the Yale School of Public Health who was not linked to the WHO research, told the Associated Press.

Most of the deaths occurred in Southeast Asia, Europe, and the Americas.

According to the WHO, India counts the most deaths by far with 4.7 million, ten times its official number.

See what others are saying: (NBC) (U.S. News and World Report) (Scientific American)

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Official Says Missing Alabama Convict and Corrections Officer Had a “Special Relationship”

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Authorities have also said they now believe the officer willfully helped the inmate escape.


New Information on Missing Inmate & Officer

Authorities in Alabama revealed Tuesday that Assistant Director of Corrections for Lauderdale County Vicky White, who is accused of helping a murder suspect Casey Cole White escape from jail, had a “special relationship” with the inmate.

“Investigators received information from inmates at the Lauderdale County Detention Center over the weekend that there was a special relationship between Director White and inmate Casey White,” Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton said in a statement. “That relationship has now been confirmed through our investigation by independent sources and means.”

Officials have previously said that the two are not related, despite their shared surname.

Singleton elaborated on the nature of the relationship while speaking to CNN later on Tuesday. He said it took place “outside of her normal work hours” and added that although it did not include “physical contact,” he still characterized it as “a relationship of a different nature.”

“We were told Casey White got special privileges and was treated differently while in the facility than the other inmates,” Singleton said.

Also on Tuesday, the Marshals Service issued a statement confirming that authorities believe Officer White had helped Mr. White escape. The authorities described her as a “wanted fugitive” and offered a $5,000 reward for any information on her whereabouts. Earlier this week, the Marshals Service also offered a $10,000 reward for any information that could lead to Mr. White’s capture.

Singleton echoed the belief that Officer White’s actions were intentional while speaking to Good Morning America Wednesday.

“I think all of our employees and myself included were really hoping that she did not participate in this willingly. But all indications are that she absolutely did,” he said. “We’re very disappointed in that because we had the utmost trust in her as an employee and as an assistant director of corrections.”

Mysterious Escape

Vicky White and Casey White were last seen leaving the Lauderdale County jail just after 9:30 a.m. Friday. The officer told other employees that she was taking the inmate to a mental health evaluation at a courthouse just down the road, and that she would be going to a medical appointment after because she was not feeling well.

Officials later said her actions violated an official policy that required two sworn deputies to transport people with murder charges. In 2020, Mr. White was charged with two counts of capital murder in connection to a fatal stabbing he confessed to and was awaiting his trial in Lauderdale County.

Mr. White was also serving time for what officials said was a “crime spree” in 2015 which included home invasion, carjacking, and a police chase. He had also previously tried to escape from jail, police said.

It wasn’t until 3:30 p.m. on Friday that a jail employee reported to higher-ups that he was not able to reach Officer White on her phone and that Mr. White had never been returned to his cell.

During a press conference that same night, Singleton told reporters that there had never even been a scheduled mental health evaluation. At another briefing Monday, he announced that an arrest warrant had been issued for Vicky on a charge of “permitting or facilitating an escape in the first degree.”

At the time, Singleton said it was unclear “whether she did that willingly or was coerced or threatened” but added, “we know for sure she did participate.” 

See what others are saying: (CNN) (ABC News) (NPR)

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