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Lawson and Dunn share views on student loan forgiveness

The two politicians battle over the newly formed district.
Valerie Crowder
WFSU Public Media
Republican Congressman Neal Dunn (left) and Democratic Congressman Al Lawson (right) debate in Tallahassee ahead of the November 2022 elections.

Two congressional incumbents vying to represent the same Florida Panhandle district are divided on how the federal government should address the rising cost of university tuition.

The issue came up during a debate in Tallahassee this week as millions of federal student loan borrowers begin applying for debt relief under the Biden administration's loan forgiveness program.

Borrowers who received federal Pell grants and earn less than $125,000 a year individually are eligible to have up to $20,000 forgiven. Those with federal student loans who didn't qualify for a Pell grant and earn less than $125,000 may get up to $10,000 forgiven.

Democrats have praised President Joe Biden for providing the debt relief, while Republicans have criticized it.

During the debate, the candidates were asked about what the federal government should do to help students avoid taking on so much debt. Both responded by giving their views on the Biden administration's loan forgiveness plan.

Dunn said he's against it. “It doesn’t make sense to forgive debt for one group of people, and you have all these kids who are paying their debt or are working on paying their debt so diligently," Dunn said. "So how you pick and choose winners in this game, it’s just absolutely unfair.”

More than 45 million Americans have federal student loan debt, amounting to $1.6 trillion nationwide, according to a White House fact sheet.

Lawson expressed support for Biden's loan forgiveness program and disputed criticisms from Republicans.

“We bail out Wall Street and nobody said anything," Lawson said. "But now as soon as we want to bail out the students, now everybody is saying it isn’t the right thing to do. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s the right thing to do.”

To reduce the cost of tuition, Lawson says the federal government should invest more in higher education. He touted his work in securing federal funding for the magnetics lab at Florida State University.

Dunn, however, suggested the federal government should reduce spending on tuition assistance. He says he supports funding for vocational programs.

Valerie Crowder hosts and produces state and local newscasts during All Things Considered. Her reporting on local government and politics has received state and regional award recognition. She has also contributed stories to NPR newscasts.