Suffolk County

Average Mass. student debt is more than $33,000, group says

BOSTON — Grant Kuehl is too embarrassed to reveal the exact number, but admits he owes a significant amount in student loans. It’s one of the reasons he quit teaching; he wasn’t making enough to dig himself out of the hole.

“I think for a lot of young people it prevents us from buying houses, it prevents us from investing in things that we want to do to further our own development in life,” Kuehl said. “I’m grateful for any sort of relief at this point.”

There are multiple reports the Biden Administration will announce a plan Wednesday to forgive up to $10,000 in federal student loans for people making $125,000 or less a year.

“It will help me a great deal. It’s $10,000 less dollars that I have to pay out of my own pocket,” Kuehl said.

According to the Institute for College Access & Success, a non-partisan organization advocating for equal and affordable college education, the average amount of student loan debt in Massachusetts is $33,457 and $39,928 in New Hampshire.

Kyle Southern, TICAS Associate Vice President of Higher Education Quality, said this move by the Biden Administration will wipe the slate clean for 15 million people who owe less than $10,000.

“For me personally, I think anything you can do to increase the financial health of people is probably going to be positive for society,” Southern said. “The most likely borrowers to go into default are those with less than $10,000 of debt. Those are very often folks where something happened and they didn’t finish their degrees. The problem with that is you don’t get the earnings boost having the credential, but they still are saddled with the debt they took on when they started.”

Around 45 million Americans owe a collective $1.7 trillion in federal student loans. But critics have long said student loan forgiveness does nothing to lower the exorbitant cost of college. That’s an issue Southern said the federal government still needs to address.

“There’s no doubt canceling some student debt tomorrow would have a great benefit for a lot of people, but you’re right it doesn’t change the cost curve for higher education,” Southern said.

Kuehl is happy for the help but knows it doesn’t help fix the larger problem.

“It doesn’t change the college costs, it doesn’t change the balance that some people have. I know people who are hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. This is a small drop in the bucket to what they actually owe,” Kuehl said.

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