“Biden can do this with the flick of a pen… veterans are people who disrupted their lives and risked their lives — it doesn’t seem like much to ask,” Schumer told HuffPost in an interview on Thursday.
Schumer, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and allies in the House, including Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), have spent the months since Biden’s presidential win urging him to quickly wipe out billions of dollars of student debt by canceling up to $50,000 per person.
Saying the administration was “moving in our direction,” Schumer said that greater awareness about the debt burden among veterans and the armed forces could make that policy easier to roll out and defend.
Brunzell (who uses they/them pronouns) joined the Navy out of high school in 2002. After facing sexual assault and retaliation, they left in 2005 but were told they were not eligible for G.I. Bill funding for college, which they had been counting on. (Brunzell is disputing the Navy’s claim through legal channels.) After returning home to Grand Rapids, Michigan, they felt wary of a traditional college. In 2006, they enrolled at the for-profit University of Phoenix, a behemoth that has long targeted veterans.
A flare-up of post-traumatic stress disorder forced Brunzell to drop their courses nearly two years in, and the university soon told them the bills for those classes would not be covered by federal aid, leaving Brunzell owing $6,000. The experience stopped Brunzell from re-entering higher education for more than a decade, and their debt, which has been transferred among various loan servicers, is now about $43,000.
“I wasted 12 years of my life,” they told HuffPost. “I wonder if I had been in a traditional college or university if that would happen to me — I could have been so much further and so much more accomplished in my life, but I’m now a 37-year-old going back to school.”
Last year, Brunzell enrolled at the University of Michigan with support from officials there and veterans’ groups. They are now applying to prestigious fellowship programs to work in public policy, in part to shield others from similar experiences. Through expansive loan forgiveness, Biden could “make my life easier,” Brunzell said — and boost the U.S. broadly.
Schumer told HuffPost that recent conversations with the administration suggest Biden is open to changing his mind about his authority to cancel $50,000 in debt per person, comparing it to Biden’s decisions to defer repayments and suspend interest. And the senator emphasized that the other route for loan forgiveness that the president has publicly cited — legislation — would be challenging.
This content was originally published here.