Student loan forgiveness: What that means to SSU

Shawnee State University students could benefit if President-elect Joe Biden goes ahead with a decision to cancel $10,000 in student loan debt. Photo courtesy of SSU.

PORTSMOUTH — Joe Biden signaled throughout his campaign and now as president-elect the possibility of forgiving student debt, a decision that could affect thousands of students at Shawnee State University.

Originally a portion of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Heroes Act, Biden supports federal payments of $10,000 to help pay off student loans. That $3 trillion stimulus passed in the Democrat-held House, its first edition proposed in May, has since stalled in the Republican-majority Senate.

That $10,000 would only cover a portion of student debt, where the Institute for College Access and Success reports that 62% of 2019 college seniors who graduated from public and private nonprofit colleges had student debt and they owed an average of $28,950.

Graduates in Ohio, although a smaller share of students had debt, completed their studies with an average of $29,886. This debt placed the state with the 22nd highest amount and 12th highest share of those with debt nationwide. Fellow member of the tri-state, West Virginia’s 67% of indebted students was the 3rd-highest in the country.

In Portsmouth, more SSU students took out federal loans (45%) than private student loans (3%) this semester. Biden’s proposed amount would surpass the average that its students pay through both loans.

SSU students collectively owe $6.1 million in loans for fall 2020, broken down to $523,184 in non-federal loans and $5,585,625 in subsidized and unsubsidized federal loans. Although a much smaller portion, students using private loans owe on average $5,687 while those with federal loans take out $3,592.

Some students use federal grants and scholarships to afford their education, which according to the university’s website estimates costs for in-state students to be $19,466 and out-of-state residents $25,509.

34% of SSU’s fall 2020 students are paying for college with federal Pell grants, which do not have to be repaid, and 36% of its students are paying for college with merit-based scholarships awarded by the university.

“Access to a high quality affordable education is a priority for us at Shawnee State,” Nicole Neal, director of financial aid at SSU, said. “In addition to offering low tuition rates and a tuition guarantee program, we provide a robust scholarship program that is making college possible for many in our region.”

Student debt has become a growing problem nationwide over the past 15 years, the aforementioned report finding only five states saw that amount increase beneath the rate of inflation (36%).

College students in Ohio owed $19,204 on average in 2004, more than $10,000 less than the latest collection of data. A large increase nonetheless, a change of 56%, some states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania saw that debt more than double.

At the basis of this change, the study claims that decreases in state funding have caused colleges to raise their tuition, thus causing more students to need loans to afford their education. The students most likely to encounter repayment challenges are low-income students, Black and Latino students, students who do not complete their programs, and students who attend for-profit colleges.

Further complicating matters is the coronavirus, which has had significant impact on college budgets. The Ohio Department of Higher Education announced that all public universities and community colleges would see a 3.8% budget cut, dropping $76.7 million in statewide spending in the process.

While SSU lost $520,117, Ohio State University leading the way with nearly $15 million in cuts, the cut was better than Gov. Mike DeWine’s projection. The governor announced in May that there would be a $110 million reduction for state colleges over the course of two months.

“Decisions like this are extremely difficult, but are part of my responsibility, as your governor, to make,” tweeted DeWine, part of a series of cuts totaling $775 million for varying state expenditures. “Making difficult budget cut decisions now will help us down the road and will help us while we continue our discussions for the next fiscal year.”

Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.© 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.