In Southwest Washington, the relief plan has the potential to significantly aid thousands of college students.
“This is something that will impact a student’s ability to follow through on their ultimate goals for not only entering a career, but also taking ownership of and reducing that debt later on,” said Domanic Vanthom, WSU Vancouver’s vice chancellor of student affairs and enrollment. “It allows students also to pursue careers that they wouldn’t have considered when there’s a significant debt. There are graduates who feel a pressure to enter careers that immediately pay, rather than where their passions are.”
At WSU Vancouver, about 51 percent of first-year students in the 2020-2021 school year were the first in their families to attend college. Additionally, 43 percent of undergraduate students in the same year met Pell Grant eligibility requirements.
Vanthom estimates that students leave WSU Vancouver with an average of $17,000 in debt — meaning that President Biden’s loan forgiveness plan would erase a significant portion of what students are left to handle.
“This would have a lot of graduates from WSU Vancouver debt-free,” said Vanthom, a first-generation college graduate himself.
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Neighboring Clark College follows similar trends, with nearly 40 percent of students enrolled in programs of study eligible to receive federal student aid under the Pell program. As of the 2021-2022 school year, 2,114 students received Pell grants; five years earlier, that number was as high as 3,743 students.