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The Biden administration has not fulfilled its promise and owes thousands of student debt relief



The Biden administration has not fulfilled its promise and owes thousands of student debt relief


On Black Friday, Jason Apley encountered an unpleasant surprise while shopping with his spouse. Upon reviewing his bank account, he observed a reduction of approximately $500 for this holiday season compared to the previous one. Despite not having student loan debt troubles like many Americans, the 44-year-old father of three from Knoxville, Tennessee, believed his debt had been erased. Nevertheless, the substantial deduction reappeared on his balance when the pandemic-era suspension on loan payments was lifted.

In 2022, Apley was one of about 200,000 borrowers who reached a significant settlement in a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Education Department known as Sweet v. Cardona. This legal action exposed the deceptive practices of for-profit schools that misled borrowers with promises of lucrative careers. The federal government acknowledged the deception and committed to canceling the borrowers’ debt.

This year, on January 28, the borrowers anticipated that their student loan accounts would be cleared, their credit reports would be cleansed, and refunds would be issued. However, the Biden administration failed to fully fulfill that promise for at least a third of the Sweet borrowers.

As per a Justice Department letter in February, only 69% of the borrowers had their forgiveness processed, leaving nearly 60,000 borrowers without relief. The Education Department later confessed to misrepresenting the number of borrowers awaiting discharge.

The delay in debt relief has tangible consequences on real-life decisions for some borrowers, such as delaying the purchase of homes or undergoing medical procedures. Apley, who had to tighten his budget during Christmas, is among those eagerly awaiting refunds for payments made to cover deceptive loans.

The Education Department describes the process of canceling the student debt of thousands as intricate. Many borrowers involved in the lawsuit have multiple smaller loans consolidated into one, making it challenging to navigate the loans. Additionally, different student loan companies handled the loans, and varying loan ages complicate the retrieval of billing history.

During his campaign, President Biden promised billions of dollars in student debt relief, committing to $22.5 billion in forgiveness for over a million borrowers. However, the slow progress in providing relief to Sweet plaintiffs highlights the complexities of the student loan system that the administration aims to fix.

Sweet v. Cardona, initiated in June 2019, spotlighted the Education Department’s failure to shield students from predatory colleges. The primary plaintiff, Theresa Sweet, shared her account of dealing with the Brooks Institute of Photography in California, an experience that left her saddled with debt and struggling to make ends meet on a paycheck-to-paycheck basis.

The holdup in debt relief is mainly attributed to student loan companies requiring more information. As discussions continue in court, attorneys for the Sweet plaintiffs urge the government to expedite the process. Nevertheless, the delays intensify the stress and financial strain on borrowers, raising doubts about the government’s ability to handle larger-scale debt relief efforts.

As the March deadline approaches for a resolution, Sweet emphasizes the urgency of the situation, noting its tangible impact on individuals. The outcome of the Sweet case serves as a cautionary tale, underscoring the gap between promising debt relief and delivering it to those in need.

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Why People Are Leaving Ireland World’s Richest Country



Why People Are Leaving Ireland World's Richest Country

In recent years, Ireland, once one of the poorest countries in Europe, has surpassed wealthy nations like the USA, UK, Kuwait, and even Qatar in terms of wealth. However, it’s curious to note that despite its riches, about 70% of its population no longer desires to live there. To understand why the urban population of one of the world’s richest countries is reluctant to reside there, we must first explore how Ireland became so affluent.

Merely 150 years ago, during the catastrophic Irish Potato Famine, also known as the Great Hunger, which spanned from 1845 to 1852, Ireland was in dire straits. The famine claimed the lives of approximately 1 million people and decimated about 11% of the population. This disaster was so severe that to this day, Ireland’s population has not fully recovered, making it the only country in Europe, and indeed the world, whose current population is less than it was in 1840.

Ireland gained independence from British control in 1922, but it wasn’t until it joined the European Economic Community in 1973 that it saw a real opportunity to amend its fortunes. This membership meant that Ireland could trade freely within the member states while being subject to only one tax jurisdiction. Seizing this advantage, Ireland announced favorable conditions for businesses establishing operations within Europe, which spurred significant economic activity and growth. The country’s economy began growing at a pace comparable to that of Singapore and South Korea and was soon dubbed the “Celtic Tiger.” Despite the global financial crisis of 2008, Ireland responded by eliminating certain tax rates, which further attracted high levels of foreign direct investment, transforming it into the “Silicon Valley of Europe.”

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However, today, a vast majority of young Irish people between the ages of 18 and 24 wish to leave Ireland permanently. There are several reasons for this dissatisfaction. First, the reality of Ireland’s wealth does not match its GDP figures. While Ireland boasts one of the highest GDP per capita ratings globally, other statistics reveal a different story. For example, the average annual salary in Ireland is lower than that in all Scandinavian countries and is on par with nations like Belgium and Austria, whose GDPs are significantly lower than Ireland’s. Additionally, the household disposable income statistics place Ireland at a mere 177th globally, indicating a substantial disparity between the perceived economic success and the standard of living experienced by its citizens.

A second significant issue is the housing crisis. Like Canada and Australia, Ireland is experiencing a severe shortage of affordable housing due to unfavorable policies for real estate developers. This shortage has driven housing prices sky-high, and in cities like Dublin, long lines of people waiting to view rental properties are a common sight.

Lastly, the healthcare system in Ireland is overwhelmed. Many Irish doctors move abroad in search of better salaries, leaving those who remain to face excessive workloads. This results in long waiting lists for patients.

Overall, Ireland’s apparent economic success heavily depends on an artificially inflated GDP figure. If Ireland reverts from its zero-taxation policy, it may lose its unique advantage, prompting many foreign companies to relocate back to their home countries. This would severely expose Ireland’s economic progress as unsustainable. For long-term success, it is crucial for Ireland to strengthen its domestic industries rather than relying solely on foreign investment, as economic figures may improve but not the ground-level progress.

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Biden’s plan to forgive student loan



Biden's plan to forgive student loan

The Biden administration is expanding its efforts to cancel student debt. Recently, the White House revealed that an additional 277,000 borrowers will have their student loans erased, totaling approximately $7.4 billion in forgiven debt. These borrowers qualify for relief because they participated in one of the administration’s loan repayment or forgiveness initiatives, which were established or revised alongside the original broad loan cancellation proposal.

This announcement follows President Biden’s recent unveiling of more details regarding Plan B for student loan forgiveness, nearly a year after the Supreme Court, led by a conservative majority, invalidated their initial attempt.

Although Plan B is narrower in scope compared to the initial proposal, which aimed to forgive up to $10,000 in debt for most borrowers, it remains ambitious. Plan B utilizes a different legal basis from the one employed in 2022, builds upon existing programs that have not encountered significant legal opposition, and is more precisely targeted. These adjustments are aimed at avoiding the legal challenges that the first loan forgiveness plan encountered in the Supreme Court.

The Biden administration may encounter opposition from Republicans and conservative critics, who could seek to challenge the plan through the federal court system once again. It remains uncertain whether voters, particularly younger demographics, will perceive Biden’s efforts positively, given that the plan primarily benefits borrowers who have carried debt for an extended period, such as millennials and Gen X-ers.

In conjunction with other loan forgiveness initiatives implemented during President Joe Biden’s tenure, Plan B is expected to alleviate debt for over 30 million Americans, as stated by the White House. Under this new proposal, over 4 million individuals would have their entire debt forgiven, while an additional 10 million would receive at least $5,000 in relief. Furthermore, 23 million borrowers would have their accrued interest wiped away, which represents the additional debt accumulated on top of the principal amount.

However, any relief is likely several months away. The plan announced on Monday is the outcome of a regulatory process initiated a month after the Supreme Court invalidated the initial plan. It still necessitates a public comment period before implementation, meaning that the earliest commencement of debt relief would likely be in the fall.

Who would benefit from Biden’s planned student loan forgiveness?

This plan would cater to five categories of borrowers, with most not needing to complete an application process; instead, the Education Department would utilize existing data to implement forgiveness once the plans are finalized.

1. Borrowers who currently owe more than their original loan amount would have up to $20,000 of interest erased, irrespective of their income. They would still be responsible for repaying the initial loan amount.

2. Individuals earning less than $120,000 annually, or couples earning less than $240,000 annually, would be eligible for full forgiveness of their interest.

3. Borrowers who have been carrying loan debt for at least 20 years would qualify for complete forgiveness. This applies to those who commenced repayment of undergraduate debt 20 years ago or more, and for graduate school debt, 25 years ago or more.

This plan also targets individuals who took out loans for academic programs classified as “low-value” by the federal government. These borrowers attended institutions or programs deemed to have low financial worth, defined by the White House as those losing eligibility for federal student aid participation, engaging in student deception, or leaving graduates with earnings after school no better than high school diploma holders.

Additionally, those eligible for existing loan forgiveness programs but not currently enrolled would be automatically included under this plan. This provision aims to enroll borrowers qualified for forgiveness through revamped income-driven or public service forgiveness programs.

Furthermore, individuals facing financial hardships, including medical debt or expensive childcare costs, who do not qualify for other forgiveness or repayment programs would be considered. This category encompasses borrowers at risk of default.

What distinguishes this approach to student loans is its focus on accrued interest, referred to as “runaway interest” by both the White House and the Department of Education. Similar to all loans, student loan debt comprises a principal amount (the initially borrowed sum) and interest. When the interest costs surpass the payments made, the interest is appended to the loan balance, resulting in a continually escalating owed amount over time, even with regular payments.

This accumulated interest often merges with the principal, amplifying future interest charges. The White House has already initiated alterations to the capitalization of interest—its addition to the principal balance, further generating interest—and this plan expands upon those regulatory adjustments by wholly forgiving interest.

On Monday, Biden and his administration are promoting this new plan in crucial cities, including swing states. The president is currently in Madison, Wisconsin, while Vice President Kamala Harris is en route to Philadelphia. Meanwhile, her husband is traveling to Phoenix, and Miguel Cardona, the Secretary of Education, is meeting with borrowers in New York City.

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Employee Layoffs at University of Texas Due to State DEI Ban



Employee Layoffs at University of Texas Due to State DEI Ban


The University of Texas at Austin initiated extensive staff layoffs shortly after a statewide prohibition on diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives in public colleges was implemented. As per a report, the university terminated numerous employees involved in their DEI programs to adhere to the new state legislation.

On Tuesday, April 2, 2024, University of Texas President Jay Hartzell declared that the institution will disband the Division of Campus and Community Engagement and reassign programs and funding to alternative divisions.

This decision arises as the university endeavors to adhere to a recent Texas statute enacted on January 1. Senate Bill 17 effectively dissolved DEI entities at public colleges and universities across the state. An insider informed the Austin American-Statesman that the university eradicated 60 positions associated with DEI endeavors.

The legislation requires all governing boards of public colleges and universities to ensure that their institutions forbid the establishment and operation of a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) office and the issuance of “DEI Statements.” Additionally, hiring practices and training are no longer permitted to utilize DEI statements.

Regarding the new law, Hartzell remarked, “I acknowledge that SB 17 has evoked strong emotions from the outset and will influence the perceptions of many Longhorns about these measures.” He further stated, “It is crucial that our community remains inclusive and supportive to all.”

This decision marks another escalation in the increasing attacks on programs benefiting marginalized groups within higher education. In conservative states like Texas and Florida, anti-DEI legislation has previously led to the closure of safe spaces for LGBTQ students in the past year.

However, concerns arose that professors and students might relocate to more liberal states as a result. The University of Texas has not officially disclosed the number of staff positions and employees facing layoffs. Nevertheless, sources indicated that at least 60 individuals were let go on Tuesday afternoon. Among them, 40 belonged to the Division of Campus and Community Engagement.

The University of Texas, however, has not responded to these assertions. In his communication, Hartzell assured that student-facing roles would remain intact for the remainder of the semester. He also mentioned that dismissed employees would have the opportunity to apply for other positions within the university.

These terminations followed state Sen. Brandon Creighton, a Republican, outlining the anticipated compliance expectations for universities. Creighton conveyed the gravity of the legislation in a letter, emphasizing that the measure “mandates a fundamental shift in the operation of our higher education institutions.”

Additionally, he emphasized the importance of fostering a “merit-based environment” within universities. Moreover, the Senator elaborated that the Texas Senate Committee on Education will convene a hearing in May. This hearing will scrutinize higher education institutions’ chancellors and “general counselors” to demonstrate their compliance with the law.

Creighton cautioned that failure to adhere to the state law could result in funding cuts for the universities. Apart from the layoffs, the law also had repercussions on cultural graduation ceremonies, sparking outrage among certain students. The closure of the university’s Multicultural Engagement Center (MEC) in compliance with the state law affected cultural graduations. This impact was observed in ceremonies such as Black Graduation, Latinx Graduation, and GraduAsian ceremonies. Similar to the University of Texas, the University of Florida terminated all its DEI employees to comply with state regulations.

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