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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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Florida Cracks Down on “Vaccine Tourism”

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  • Florida is now requiring that people show proof of either full-time or part-time residency in the state in order to get vaccinated against COVID-19. 
  • The state has been hit with “vaccine tourism” as many people, predominantly wealthy individuals, fly to the state from other parts of the U.S. and abroad just to get the shot. 
  • So far, nearly 41,000 of the 1.3 million doses administered in Florida went to out-of-staters, though it is unclear if all those people were tourists or if this figure includes some part-time residents.

Florida Requires Proof of Residency

Florida is cracking down on “vaccine tourism” and requiring that people show proof of either full-time or part-time residency in the state in order to get a COVID-19 shot.

Previously the state was allowing anyone 65 and older, including non-residents, to get the vaccine. This resulted in people flying to the Sunshine State from across the U.S. and abroad just for the purpose of receiving it. 

According to state data, nearly 41,000 of the 1.3 million doses Florida has administered have gone to out-of-staters. It is unclear if all these out-of-staters are tourists or if this figure includes some part-time residents. 

Now, people must show a form of identification like a driver’s license or mortgage payment to receive it. Exceptions will be made for healthcare workers. 

Vaccine Supply Continues to Be Limited

Wealthy people in particular were quick to schedule travel plans to Florida for this reason. According to the Wall Street Journal, there was an influx of Canadians booking private jets to Florida. Some were looking to book flights there and back on the same day, leaving just enough time for them to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. 

Meanwhile, people in Florida and across the country are waiting in long lines and struggling to book appointments on glitching websites to get their shots. Vaccine supply continues to be incredibly limited and not everyone in high-risk groups have received them.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said this rule is not made to impact snowbirds, people who live in Florida during the winter to escape cold weather up north. 

“They go to doctors here or whatever, that’s fine, DeSantis said, according to CNN. “What we don’t want is tourists, foreigners. We want to put seniors first, but we obviously want to put people that live here first in line.”

See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (CNN) (Travel + Leisure)

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Amanda Gorman Wows the Nation With “The Hill We Climb”

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  • Amanda Gorman, a 22-year-old poet, impressed the nation when she read “The Hill We Climb” at President Biden’s inauguration, making her the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history.
  • Gorman’s said the Jan. 6 attack on the nation’s Capitol inspired her to focus on a message of hope, community, and healing in her poem.
  • Big names like Oprah Winfrey, Anderson Cooper, Barack Obama, and Lin-Manuel Miranda have all praised her work.

Amanda Gorman Becomes Youngest Inaugural Poet

Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman wowed the nation on Wednesday as she spoke of healing, unity, hope, and what it means to be American while reading her poem, “The Hill We Climb.”

At 22-years-old Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she was the youth poet laureate of Los Angeles in 2014 at the age of 16. She then became the first national youth poet laureate in 2017. 

Now, her books are topping Amazon’s Best Sellers list and they are not even scheduled to be released until the fall.

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden became a fan of Gorman after watching her give a reading at the Library of Congress. She then suggested that Gorman be a part of the ceremony. 

“Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true: That even as we grieved, we grew. That even as we hurt, we hoped That even as we tired, we tried,” Gorman recited during inauguration. “That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious. Not because we will never again know defeat but because we will never again sow division.”

Like President Biden, Gorman has struggled with a speech impediment and has been open about her experience overcoming it. She actually used poetry as a tool to correct it. First, she used it as a way of expressing herself without having to speak. Then she used it to bring her poems to life.

“Once I arrived at the point in my life in high school, where I said, ‘you know what? Writing my poems on the page isn’t enough for me,” she told CBS News. “I have to give them breath, and life, I have to perform them as I am.’ That was the moment that I was able to grow past my speech impediment.”

What Inspired “The Hill We Climb”

Gorman said the inaugural committee gave her freedom and flexibility when it came to choosing what to write about. She was well on her way before the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Those events then influenced her writing. 

“It energized me even more to believe that much more firmly in a message of hope, community and healing. I felt like that was the type of poem that I needed to write and it was the type of poem that the country and the world needed to hear,” she told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.  

That message came across clearly and the insurrection was depicted in part of “The Hill We Climb.”

“It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit. It’s the past we step into and how we repair it. We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy and this effort very nearly succeeded,” she said. “But while democracy can be periodically delayed it can never be permanently defeated. In this truth, in this faith we trust. For while we have our eyes on the future history has its eyes on us.”

Nation Impressed by Gorman

“Wow…Wow, I just, wow you’re awesome,” Cooper said when closing his interview with her. “I am so transfixed.” 

Lin-Manuel Miranda also cheered Gorman on. “The Hill We Climb” notably references a line of scripture that appears in a “Hamilton” song. Gorman also said she used to sing the song “Aaron Burr, Sir” to help her say her R sounds and correct her speech impediment. 

“I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise!” Oprah Winfrey wrote. “Brava Brava Amanda Gorman! Maya Angelou is cheering—and so am I.”

Winfrey also gave Gorman a ring with a caged bird on it—a reference to the famous Angelou poem— which Gorman wore during the inauguration. 

Actor Mark Ruffalo joined the onslaught of praise, saying that her words will lead the nation. 

Former President Barack Obama echoed that idea as well, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Gorman promised to run for president one day. 

See what others are saying: (CBS News) (New York Times) (Los Angeles Times)

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SAT Drops Subject Tests and Optional Essay Section

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  • The College Board will discontinue SAT subject tests effective immediately and will scrap the optional essay section in June. 
  • The organization cited the coronavirus pandemic as part of the reason for accelerating these changes.
  • Regarding subject tests, the College Board said the other half of the decision rested on the fact that Advanced Placement tests are now more accessible to low-income students and students of color, making subject tests unnecessary. 
  • It also said it plans to launch a digital version of the SAT in the near future, despite failing to implement such a plan last year after a previous announcement.

College Board Ends Subject Tests and Optional Essay

College Board announced Tuesday that it will scrap the SAT’s optional essay section, as well as subject tests.

Officials at the organization cited the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the reason for these changes, saying is has “accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to simplify our work and reduce demands on students.”

The decision was also made in part because Advanced Placement tests, which College Board also administers, are now available to more low-income students and students of color. Thus, College Board has said this makes SAT subject tests unnecessary. 

While subject tests will be phased out for international students, they have been discontinued effective immediately in the U.S. 

Regarding the optional essay, College Board said high school students are now able to express their writing skills in a variety of ways, a factor which has made the essay section less necessary.

With several exceptions, it will be discontinued in June.

The Board Will Implement an Online SAT Test

In its announcement, College Board also said it plans to launch a revised version of the SAT that’s aimed at making it “more flexible” and “streamlined” for students to take the test online.

In April 2020, College Board announced it would be launching a digital SAT test in the fall if schools didn’t reopen. The College Board then backtracked on its plans for a digital test in June, before many schools even decided they would remain closed.

According to College Board, technological challenges led to the decision to postpone that plan.

For now, no other details about the current plan have been released, though more are expected to be revealed in April. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (The New York Times)

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