Alexandria Mavin is counting on Biden's student-loan forgiveness to make a dent in her federal balance and help her tackle the surging interest.
Alexandria Mavin, 33, is disappointed — not only with the lawsuits that have blocked President Joe Biden's student-loan forgiveness, but with the way other people have reacted to the idea of debt relief.
When Insider first spoke to Mavin in 2021, she had paid back $70,000 of her original $117,000 student-loan balance from her undergraduate education since 2013, but still owed $98,000. Now, Mavin owes $90,869 on her student loans — three of which are privately owned, and one of which is a $30,862 federal loan. She said she has been paying all of them off diligently, even as interest has kept accumulating on her balance.
When Biden announced his plan to forgive up to $20,000 in student debt for Pell Grant recipients making under $125,000 a year, and up to $10,000 for other federal borrowers under the same income cap, Mavin was cautiously optimistic because she would qualify for the full $20,000 amount of relief on her federal loan — but she recognized it was not yet set in stone.
"As soon as I saw the announcement pop up on the TV, my heart skipped a beat. I felt extreme relief," Mavin said. "And then the realism in me kicked in since it was a plan, it wasn't written in law. So my heart skipped a beat with excitement and feeling a rush of relief, and then the light bulb came on that it was a plan. I was like, 'Oh, someone's gonna mess with this.'"
Her suspicions were correct — just months after Biden's August announcement, two conservative-backed lawsuits succeeded in halting the implementation of the plan. The Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments in the cases on February 28. In the meantime, many conservative and liberal groups and advocates have filed amicus curiae briefs making their opinions known to the nation's highest court on whether Biden can legally cancel student debt for millions of borrowers.
A common thread among opponents of the debt relief plan is that it's unfair to those who have already paid off their loans, or funded their higher educations on their own. Mavin said that argument is too simplistic — she said she was told when she was younger that the only way to succeed in life and achieve the American dream was to go to college — and now that she got her degrees, she's being blamed for the debt she took on.
"They forced the idea in our heads of going to college, and now the same people are saying, 'Oh, you're saddled with the debt, well you chose to go to college.' So you told us to go, and now you're telling us it's unfair that we need this fix," Mavin said. "There needs to be an understanding between the generations on what the real issues are, and not just play the unfair game. It's just something really good that needs to happen to help everybody, because everybody deserves a future."
The student-loan payment pause 'has helped me afford life'
Having a daughter in 2020 added to Mavin's expenses, but the pause on federal student-loan payments has saved her nearly $400 a month to put toward home and car repairs, basic necessities, and food and clothes for her daughter. Mavin said the pause on payments "has helped me afford life." That pause is set to end 60 days after the lawsuits blocking Biden's debt relief are resolved, or 60 days after June 30, whichever happens first, and Mavin said she's already preparing for that financial strain.
"With the freeze and being able to save that money, I'm not worried about random expenses that pop up with my home, my child, my husband, nothing. But now that's coming to an end soon," Mavin said. "I just got a raise, but I'm just going to pretend I didn't get it and put it in my savings. So instead of being able to enjoy that, I'm going to have to pretend I have my previous year's salary so I have it saved up for when payments resume."
A recent report from the Penn Wharton Budget Model found that the the student-loan payment pause has cost the federal government $210 billion, with 23% of the pause's benefits going to households in the bottom 50% of income distribution. Many Republican lawmakers have blasted the cost of the payment pause to taxpayers, with some introducing legislation to end the pause and put borrowers back into repayment.
On Wednesday, Republicans on the House budget committee even proposed eight areas to cut spending, two of which included ending the student-loan payment pause and reversing Biden's broad debt relief plan.
But Mavin said she's also a taxpayer, and the pause has been critical for her and her family.
"They're so out of touch. They keep saying this forgiveness is unfair. It's so illegal. And then they keep talking about taxpayers, but we are taxpayers," Mavin said.
"It's crazy to see with just this one student loan being gone, how much financial freedom I'm finding just from one measly $400-a-month student loan," she added. "I'm able to take care of my personal things without wanting to throw up every time a bill comes."
Student-debt relief and reforms to repayment would be 'life-changing'
The White House has made clear it is not deliberating a backup plan if the Supreme Court strikes down Biden's relief, and it anticipates resuming payments this year regardless of the outcome of the litigation.
But to ease the repayment process, the Education Department proposed reforms to income-driven repayment (IDR) plans, which are intended to give borrowers affordable monthly payments based on their income with the promise of loan forgiveness after at least 20 years. The department's proposal would cut monthly payments for undergraduates in half and shorten the timeframe for borrowers to receive loan forgiveness, and Mavin said it would be "life-changing."
Still, as Insider previously reported, IDR plans have failed to work properly over the past decade and if it's not implemented correctly, it could add onto the student-loan industry's continued failures. But now, Mavin is "remaining hopeful that something happens because this is too big of an ongoing issue."
"Let's say 45 people are in this situation with the massive amount of debt. That's a handful of people, you know, out of 1000. But when it's 45 million people," Mavin said, referring to the number of Americans with student debt, "that's a scam."