After a three-year pause on interest accruement, students and postgraduates will resume making payments on their loans in October.
The pause on interest for students, which was initially set in place as temporary COVID relief amidst 2020’s dire financial straits, was extended for three more years by the Biden administration as a component of the president’s larger student loan forgiveness plan. The plan, which would enable up to $20,000 of a student’s accrued debt to be forgiven, was effectively blocked by the Supreme Court back in June.
Though President Biden promised that his team was in the process of developing an alternative solution to loan forgiveness, the chances of bipartisan acceptance of the plan, as well as its execution in the immediate future, remain very small.
President Biden plans on evoking the Higher Education Act, which allows the Education Department to waive debt under certain circumstances. The path to approval will be a protracted one, requiring a series of public hearings over the next three months in which the terms of the forgiveness plan will be drawn out and negotiated by a conglomeration of stakeholders, such as borrowers, veterans, state officials, and university leaders.
In the meantime, millions of students will continue what has long been forestalled as they wait for concrete developments.
Temporary aid and the SAVE plan
The Department of Education has still been able to provide new strategies to make loan repayment more feasible for borrowers, such as the SAVE (Save on a Valuable Education) plan. The plan offers affordable monthly payments to be made based on family size and discretionary income. The term for this type of plan is called an Income-Driven Repayment plan.
The Education Department has utilized many of these types of plans in the past, but the SAVE plan looks to be one of the most beneficial for borrowers. Borrowers that belong to a family of four and make $67,500 a year or less, for example, may only have a minimum monthly payment of $0.
Just as Biden’s original Loan Forgiveness plan drew its share of detractors, many of the president’s opponents have balked at this latest strategy.
Bill Cassidy, the Republican Senator of Louisiana, issued a statement against the SAVE plan: “Once again, Biden’s newest student loan scheme only shifts the burden from those who chose to take out loans to those who decided not to go to college, paid their way or already responsibly paid off their loans.”
Conversely, those in favor of the new repayment plan see it as an extended hand to families and individuals who worked within industries and occupations harshly affected by the pandemic or who may have unknowingly walked into murky loan contracts with predatory agencies with little-to-no guidance.
When there’s “never enough”
My wife and I are borrowers who have benefitted from the temporary reprieve from loan repayments. We are currently preparing for the transition in October. Though I have applied for the SAVE plan, I do not see the loans that I placed on myself as an enemy to be bitter toward. Rather, I’m thankful that they’ve enabled me to continue a rich education, as I now come to uphold my part of the bargain.
That said, I feel significant trepidation at the prospect.
As young adults making ends meet with jobs that struggle to match the rising costs of living in an increasingly saturated part of Texas, my wife and I share the same anxieties as many of our peers and of those who came before us. It can quickly feel like there’s “never enough” money. This fearful state perpetuates a mindset of scarcity, where worries of money freeze the heart and leave me both unwilling and unable to recognize the Lord’s providence.
The danger of this state is that it can leave Christians hardened to the promptings that the Holy Spirit gives us to trust in him. Where God gives us an opportunity to be generous, we become stingy; where we could be bold, we cower; where we could be blessed, we impoverish ourselves.
Who rules you?
Jesus understood the sway that money could have on our hearts. He grants in the Sermon on the Mount that what we set our attention upon has the power to define a body full of life, or one full of death.
“The eye is the lamp of the body. So if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matthew 6:19). He uses this contrast to draw a line between himself and wealth. That’s not to say the wealthy could not serve him, but rather that there is no place in the kingdom for those who would first direct themselves toward attaining wealth.
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:19).
Although we all may fear not having enough money, the truth is that whatever little we had, or whatever abundance we had, belonged to God first and foremost.
Therefore, we have an amazing practical opportunity with our finances to declare God’s lordship over our lives by relinquishing money’s control on ourselves. This is accomplished through giving, prayer, and gratitude.
By bringing God into our financial life, we are exposed to the depths in which we need him. He graciously reveals where our hearts are deficient of him and offers us a chance for sanctification through letting go of our money. Of course, this does not necessarily mean reckless spending, trusting that God will supplant the losses. Rather, it simply means that we bring to him what was originally his first and let him guide us toward his purposes. To do so frees us from the bonds of an earthly economic system, placing us in the abundance of God’s kingdom, where we are given a security that transcends material comfort even as the Lord continues to meet our material needs.
“Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house,” God commands his people in Malachi. “Thereby put me to the test . . . if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts” (Malachi 3:10–11).
Convicted about “my” money
Amidst loan payments and increased rent costs, my wife and I were convicted by our church to begin tithing. Tithing is a mandate in the Bible, but also a way for us to petition for the Lord to provide for us and a chance to remember his character and the attitude of love he has towards his children.
In spite of the fear that comes as I see “my” money drain from my bank account when I tithe, I haven’t felt an intimacy with God quite like the one I felt when my wife and I handed over what we had, asked the Lord to help us trust him, and gave thanks for all of the ways he has blessed us. It was a formative act that has left me feeling near to him day by day, oftentimes allowing me to hear and see the Holy Spirit in tangible ways. Though we have less now, we both feel continually blessed in a way that having more money could simply not replace.
Not everyone who reads this will have student loan payments or rent charges. But we all have financial burdens that gnaw on our hearts one way or another. Therefore, we all have an incredible opportunity to seek intimacy with God and experience his character in a deeper way.
May you listen to his prompting and grow in familiarity with your Father.