“FREE” TUITION

Although the school season is well under way, the big school related news occurred last week where President Joe Biden declared the student debt forgiveness program.

What it all means is that those earning $125,000 a year or less (or $250,000 for a domestic legally married couple) will be forgiven for their student loan debts up to $10,000 for a federal loan. If one obtained a Pell Grant during their enrollment, the increase extends up to $20,000 in debt cancellation.

This includes the Parent PLUS loans (now long discontinued) as well as loans filed if one was a grad student. If one was a grad student and did receive a Pell Grant, the forgiveness is limited to the Ten Gs.  And if one filed for a federal loan before July 1st of this year, one is eligible to be part of this forgiveness program.

And if one is still paying off a loan, the payment delay has been extended again until December 31st of ’22.

The only ones not eligible for forgiveness are those that applied for a loan through a private bank or related financial institution outside of government issue.

This writer was honored to be enrolled in college not so long ago. Yours truly was part of a four year public college located in southern Illinois, about 350 miles south of Chicago. However, I wasn’t attending for four years in a row, my education “career” (or one wants to call it a “career”) was staggered for some ten years. However, I was very lucky to not acquire any form of high tuition debt.

My enrollment days extended mostly in the 1980’s bleeding into the early 1990’s. This was at the time where college, although pricey for what it was, was rather affordable. And being the fact that the college I attended was in the semi-rural community of Carbondale, Illinois, and the school itself was Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. (Go Salukis!) You can find more details of this institution through their website at http://www.siu.edu or through the usual social media portals.

Anyway, when I enrolled, I did so through the federal program then called the Basic Education Opportunity Grant (BEOG) that awarded some given amount to cover tuition and even some other expenses that were required for me to become part of the so-called Saluki universe. I did enroll for one full year that ran from late August through middle May. Living in a town such as Carbondale was cheap(er) for what it was worth, and I really didn’t necessarily live the stereotypical college student life, whatever that college life was! However, my tuition was taken care of courtesy of U.S. Taxpayers.

A year later, I had an opportunity to trek over to Minneapolis for a career opportunity that was literally given to me. I was hoping to stay in school while living in the frozen north. However, because of the jobs I held, as well as “maintaining” having a girlfriend, school life took a leave of absence.

About four years later after the job was eventually dissolved (not of my making by the way), as well as the relationship with the girlfriend blowing itself out, I decided to return back to the wilds of southern Illinois to pick up where I left off school wise. I enrolled through the Pell Grant as the BEOG took a different turn, and continued my education. Although tuition did increase, the increase was rather stable. However, the Pell grant covered most of the expenses for education as dictated.

Unlike the first year where I was a full-time student, I was now going part time. I did get a job with a cable TV facility located in suburban St. Louis, where I commented some 200 miles round trip while on duty. I did this because gas was a lot cheaper in Missouri than it was in Illinois. And if I did move to the Missouri side, I would have lost my in-state status. (I could have moved to some place in “Metro East” Illinois, but I didn’t! I stayed in my community of Murphysburo and lived the Midwestern small town life!)

But getting back again to the tuition part. I was able to attend school for all of this time and not once I was forced to take out a loan. Outside of the usual expenses one encounters for rent, food, as well as for that Missouri gas, I didn’t have to pay for the use of what the University had to offer back then.

Of course, this all occurred over thirty years ago when it was quite possible to attend a public post-high school institution and rack up a minimal sized tuition based debt. But from what I have seen over the many years since I gave my final farewells to the SIU gang, attending college isn’t as cheap as it used to be, if it was cheap to even begin with!

Most of your undergrad students, assuming that they are of the eighteen through twenty-two age range a.k.a “Gen Zers”, are those that were born in the 21st century. These are the ones that don’t remember life before the internet. They are the ones that are overly wired to the max, and make many of their expense payments through their smartphones that could even be better than the one I carry around. And its a way a lot better than the phone service I had access to while attending SIU that was provided by the local phone company, GTE. (I still recall that during welcome week, GTE had these pop-up kiosks around campus that pushed their phone services while giving away the usually amount of swag as feeble incentives that I still have to this very day!)

Many of those in the media, social or otherwise, are giving kudos over this forgiveness program, while the naysayers state that only allowing 10 to 20 Gs isn’t even enough. Many of those that did attend college are still paying off loans that have become one of their biggest expenses, if not their biggest overall expense. Those in their 20’s and 30’s, when they attended school as an undergrad after the turn of the 21st century are working in jobs that mat not necessarily reflect in what they enrolled in while at school. They do have the desire to purchase a dwelling space. But instead of living the so-called “American Dream” of home ownership, they are taking their funds that would be set for a dwelling space to pay off the college loans they took out those many years before.

And it’s not limited to those “young adults” that are paying off these loans. Many parents of offspring are paying off the loans as well. Ditto for the grandparents that may have been a loan arranger (no pun intended to George W. Trendel) in a federal loan for their grandkids to succeed in life in the same methods that the “baby boomers” did back in their day.

Of course, it’s going to take time until all of this forgiveness is going to have some kind of effect. As with government based issues and declarations, it’s going to be quite a while until all of the action gets it acts together! It’s another round of “hurry up and wait”!

But as school days take its churn in life, one has to remember a line that yours truly spotted from a source now long forgotten. And it says it all!  College is the only party that carries a $20,000 cover charge!

Did I already mention “Go Salukis”?

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