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$62, 391.

That’s the cost of tuition at Northwestern University.

Not for all four years. Just one.

Throw in room and board, fees and general expenses of life, and NU projects the annual cost of learning, eating, sleeping, and even having some fun, at $87,804.

With expenses like that, it’s easy to leave with a big bunch of IOU’s along with that BA or BS.

And while Northwestern’s price tag is up there with the rest of the nation’s top universities, even those attending state schools with lower tuition, or less competitive private schools, can still end up facing years of repaying loans.

So, President Joe Biden’s plan, announced this week, to cancel $10,000 in student debt (or $20,000 for those from families with bigger financial needs) was welcomed on the NU campus, but with questions.

“Jamie” (first name only) is a second-year Ph.D. student, who came to Northwestern with $80,000 in student loan debt from undergraduate school along with getting her master’s degree.

“I think it would be helpful,” to have some of that debt reduced, Jamie said, pending more information on the details. (One such detail: only federal student loans are eligible for the break. Private loans are not).

The Biden plan provides $10,000 in loan debt relief for individuals earning less than $125,000 a year, or for couples making less than $250,000.

The higher, $20,000 forgiveness is for those who received undergraduate Pell Grants, which are based on need, and tend to go to those with fewer resources.

Ben Monroe, a rising NU senior, considers himself lucky.

Monroe told Evanston Now that he comes from a family which is able to cover his college expenses.

For those who have to borrow, Monroe said the debt forgiveness is “a step in the right direction.”

“But,” he added, “it’s not enough.”

With the nationwide average of college loan debt at $37,667 per student, according to the Associated Press, Monroe said many college graduates will still be in debt for years, forgiveness or not.

Monroe also said that in many European nations college tuition is either free or very low cost compared to the United States.

“We’re supposedly the wealthiest country in the world,” Monroe said, but added that the way college is financed is not fair to those who have to take out huge loans.

Northwestern points out that many students do receive financial aid, including scholarships that do not have to be paid back.

NU says more than 60% of students receive need-based assistance, and the university’s financial aid brochure says, “Yes, A World-Class Institution Can Be Affordable For You.”

The Biden plan is likely to face legal challenges.

Some critics say that the loan forgiveness will add to inflation, although Biden disagrees.

Other critics say that a $250,000 family income is way above middle class, and the relief is being handed out too broadly.

And still others say that if you borrow money, you should be morally obligated to pay it back.

But the president campaigned on student loan relief, and so he is trying to do what he said he would.

$10,000 or even $20,000 would not wipe out what most students owe. But it would help.

As “Jamie” put it, “it’s something, I guess.”

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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