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Biden's student debt plan will affect millions. How the economic impact breaks down.

With the cost of college and student debt levels soaring, forgiveness program will provide relief to millions of Americans, President Biden says.

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President Joe Biden announced a plan to forgive or reduce federal student loan debt Wednesday, a program the administration said would aid many of the 43 million Americans who have loan debts totaling $1.6 trillion.

The plan will cancel up to $10,000 in federal student loans for those earning less than $125,000 per year. Those with Pell Grants, another source of financial aid for education, would receive an additional $10,000 in debt forgiveness.

Americans generally view having a college education as a key to a better life, providing a higher income and more job opportunities.

However, the cost of college has gone up. The average price of tuition, fees and housing for an undergraduate degree increased 169% from 1980 to 2020, according to a report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

USA TODAY looked at student loans across the U.S. to see where the Biden plan could have the most effect. Here's what we found.

District of Columbia has highest average federal student loan debt

Federal student loan debt totals among all U.S. states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico average $29 billion per state. The District also has the highest per borrower amount of $54,945. North Dakota has the lowest, with $28,604 per borrower.

Student debt keeps rising

The total U.S. student loan debt is $1.748 trillion. Of that amount, $1.62 trillion, or 93%, are from federal student loans. The average federal student loan debt balance is $37,667 per borrower.

Beneficiaries by income level

The estimated cost of Biden's plan is between $300 billion and $980 billion over the 10-year budget window, depending on details, according to Penn Wharton Budget Model, a research project of the University of Pennsylvania. About 70 percent of debt relief goes to borrowers in the top 60 percent of the income distribution, PWBM said.

Who benefits from student loan forgiveness?

Students ranging in age from 18 to 39 would benefit most from $10,000 in student debt loan forgiveness, according to an April report from Liberty Street Economics and the New York Federal Reserve.

Public and private college costs increase

College costs have soared over the past 20 years. Tuition costs alone have outpaced the rate of inflation with 171.5%, according to the Education Data Initiative. EDI says financial sources attribute the increases to the availability of federal funding meant to make college more affordable.


SOURCE USA TODAY Network reporting and research; Associated Press; Education Data Initiative; Federal Reserve

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