By Thomas Behnke
“It’s not fair,” Erica Mejia, a Lehman senior, said. “My family made just too much [for me] to qualify for aid, so it’s all on me. It’s bad enough we have to go into debt to get an education. Now even the little breaks are being taken away.”
Mejia was lamenting the passage of the Trump administration’s wildly unpopular tax plan, passed by the Republican Senate in the early hours of the morning on Dec. 2. Experts say the bill will make students’ lives harder and their pockets emptier. While it raises taxes for the middle- and lower-classes, it gives substantial breaks to large corporations and the wealthiest in the nation. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates it will add over a trillion dollars to the deficit.
Particularly hard on students are provisions within the bill that eliminate any deductions on student loan interest. According to The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS), “Seven in 10 seniors (69%) who graduated from public and nonprofit colleges in 2014 had student loan debt, with an average of $28,950 per borrower.” The site lists New York student debt as slightly below the national average ($27,842). The Department of Education’s Federal Student Loan page lists interest on federal loans ranging from four to seven percent. Interest paid over the life of a loan -- typically 10 years -- can be from $4000 to over $11,000.
A Quinnipiac poll reports nationwide approval of the tax plan at just 29 percent. Lehman students voiced their disapproval of it as well.
“How are we supposed to pay these loans when they are raising our taxes, and eliminating deductions?” Meija said. “I’m going to have a degree, but I’m not making a hundred grand out of the gate.”
“I don’t think this administration is interested in public education at all,” Jose Areas, a Lehman sophomore, said. “They aren’t interested in people who aren’t like them, who don’t have the means.” Areas’ brother is currently paying off over $45,000 in loans and is working as a commercial mover. “He worked full-time and went to school, too. He got his degree and, really what he should be doing is internships, but three months after he graduated, bang, there’s a bill in the mail. He can’t afford not to get paid.”
Forbes Magazine reported CBO statistics for the tax bill. By 2019, people earning less than $30,000 will be paying almost $10,000 more toward the budget deficit in either increased taxes or decreased services. The bill has provisions in it to end mandatory health insurance requirements, which the CBO reports will ultimately cause insurance premiums to skyrocket.
Gabriel Garcia, a junior at Lehman put it succinctly, “I’m graduating in 2019. Last election was the first one I could vote in. I didn’t have a say in the mismanagement of the government’s money. I didn’t give millions of dollars to corporations who ran to the Bahamas with their profits. I know I have to pay back my loans, but how am I responsible for the rest of the government’s debts?”