Pell Grant recipients share what student loan forgiveness means to them

“I am so happy that Biden has kept his promise,” said Lea Ceasrine, 28, after the White House announced Wednesday that it will cancel up to $10,000 in federal student debt and up to $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients who meet with income requirements.

As one of the more or less 27 million borrowers Earning less than $125,000 a year and eligible for up to $20,000, the Chicago-based podcast producer hopes to reap the full benefit of the loan relief.

“For those of us who went to college on Pell grants, it’s emotional,” he said.

This is what the pardon will mean for her and two other Pell Grant recipients.

Excuse me, a balance that is ‘more manageable’

Lea Ceasrine (left) and a classmate at her graduation from the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism.

Source: Lee Caesarine

Ceasrine originally put out a mix of private and federal student loans to pay for her bachelor’s and master’s degrees and graduated with a loan balance approaching $70,000.

“That Pell Grant was everything,” he said. “Without that, he wouldn’t have been able to go to college.” Pell Grant recipients generally exhibit exceptional financial hardship and they represent more than 60% of borrowers expected to benefit from the forgiveness plan, according to the US Department of Education.

“Just because our parents didn’t have money doesn’t mean we didn’t deserve a chance,” he added.

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During the pandemic, Ceasrine was determined to keep her payments despite the lengthy moratorium. (President Joe Biden also said the administration will extend the repayment pause on most federal student loans “one last time” through Dec. 31.)

“I set out to pay off my first loan,” he said. Ceasrine reduced his outstanding balance to approximately $50,000. After applying forgiveness, that balance should be closer to $30,000.

“I feel like that’s more manageable,” he said.

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What to know about Biden’s pardon plan: how it works, when to apply
Timeline: Key Events on the Path to Student Loan Forgiveness
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Here’s what President Biden’s student loan forgiveness means for your taxes
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Biden student loan forgiveness will cost taxpayers and cause inflation: experts

‘A game changer’ and a chance to save for a house

Kaya Jones

Source: Kaya Jones

“It’s a game changer for me,” said 23-year-old Kaya Jones.

Jones graduated from Temple University in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and journalism.

To pay for school, he worked two jobs and depended on a combination of resources, including contributions from friends and family and student debt along with Pell Grants.

His balance, which was $34,600, would be more than halved after he gets a $20,000 discharge.

Jones plans to put some of the money toward a down payment on a house in or around Philadelphia. “That’s really exciting,” he said.

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‘The action of the White House cannot end here’

Sarah William

Sarah William

For Sara Guillermo, the CEO of Ignite, a political leadership program for women, the pardon won’t put a dent in her $80,000 balance.

Guillermo, who lives in the California Bay Area, sets aside between $1,000 and $1,500 a month for his undergraduate and graduate student debt payments. He received Pell Grants in college, but now he earns above the income threshold to qualify for relief.

“I wish this had happened 10 years ago,” the 38-year-old said. “It’s been a very long journey.”

It has been a very long journey.

Sarah William

student loan borrower and CEO of Ignite