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US Student Loan Forgiveness – Business English Lesson

Reading and listening to business and economic news will help you move your business English to the B2 level and beyond. This level is the minimum requirement if you want to study business or economics at an English-speaking university.

President Joe Biden reduces students’ debts by $10,000.

As part of his plan to help the United States recover from the economic damage caused by the Coronavirus, Joe Biden has announced measures to forgive some of the debt that students have taken on to pay for their university education. What are the details of this scheme, who benefits, how much will it cost the US taxpayer, and is the policy actually a good idea?

The scheme extends the Covid-19 pause on student loan repayments until the end of 2022. After that, anyone who earns less than $125,000 per year, or $250,000 for a married couple, will be eligible for a $10,000 reduction in their student loan debt. It is estimated that of the 43 million people who have outstanding student loans, 20 million will see their entire debt cancelled. In addition to the general debt forgiveness, students from poor households who have taken out Pell grants will be eligible for $20,000 dollars of loan write-offs. The debt relief will be welcomed by many Americans who work extra hours or who have taken on additional jobs to manage the burden of their loans. 

On the whole, those who advocate student debt relief have welcomed the news. Others, however, feel that it does not go far enough. According to the National Consumer Law Center, the plan needs to do more to help people with very heavy debt burdens: African Americans are over-represented in this category.

As with all policy initiatives, it is not all sunshine and roses. The debt write-off comes with a heavy price tag. Economists estimate the cost will be between $400 and $600 billion. Opponents also point out that the scheme is regressive rather than progressive. This means that richer people get more benefits than the less well-off. Those who get a tertiary education have significant income benefits over those who finish education with their high school diploma. According to the US Bureau of Statistics, the lifetime earnings premiums over a high school diploma are 11% for some college education (for example two-year associate degree), 65% for a BA, and 135% for an MA or professional degree. Other research shows that 69% of the benefit will accrue to the top 60% of earners. The regressive arguments are that the government is giving money to those who do not need it, and, perhaps more importantly, everyone is paying for these handouts through tax, even those without tertiary education. Is this fair?

References

This article used the following sources: We suggest that you try reading these after going over this simplified version. Reading original articles will dramatically improve your business English over time.

The Economist: Biden spends hundreds of billions on reducing student loan debt

Reuters: US student loan forgiveness has borrowers hoping for vacations, medical school

Key phrases and vocabulary

Measure: a way of doing something or achieving something

Forgive a debt: to cancel a debt

Scheme: an official plan

Be eligible for: you can do something because you are in the right situation. The opposite is ineligible

Outstanding (loan, debt): waiting to be paid, still needing to be paid

Grant: An amount of money provided by a government or organisation for a special purpose (In this text it means an interest-free loan.)

Write-off a loan: To cancel a loan

Burden: something difficult or unpleasant to deal with or causing you to worry about

Advocate: to show support for an idea or way of doing things

Debt relief: a situation in which the lender tells you that you do not have to pay the money back that you owe

Over-represented: to have more of a group than you would expect considering their percentage of the population. For example, if 50% of the population are men, but 70% of the managers in the company are men, then men are over-represented in management.

Heavy price tag: A high price to do something

Regressive: in economics, this means that more benefits go to the richer members of society than the poorer ones

Progressive: the opposite of regressive

Tertiary education: education at the college or university level

Premium: an amount that is more than usual

Accrue to: if a benefit accrues to you, you receive it or have the right to use it

Handout: something that is given for free (usually money, clothes or food)

Expansion

You can use the four tasks below are the basis of an essay or to prepare for a class debate. The third and fourth tasks are particularly important. They are useful for practising presenting arguments in English.

  1. Is tertiary education free in your country? If not, does the government subsidise education or do students have to pay for all of the tuition?
  2. Does your government help student find low-cost loans to help fund their tuition fees or living costs while studying?
  3. Discuss the pros and cons of taxpayers contributing to the cost of university education. 
  4. Research the cost of doing your degree in other countries. Are there large differences in the costs of tertiary education? Do you think these differences are justified?