By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Thursday in Washington, top lawmakers, including Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, put forward a proposal to address college debt.

It would forgive up to $50,000 in student debt for many Americans. That’s on the high end of a number of proposals, but for those who find themselves repaying their own debts and worrying about their kids, any help would be welcome

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Matt Muenchow, 40, is an auditor from South St. Paul. He still has to repay for his undergrad and master’s degrees.

“I just had to look [up what I owe], $93,516.30,” Muenchow said.

He says he is worried about his high school senior amassing college debt.

“As I was in college, even then we were reaching the tipping point,” Muenchow said.

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He is part of a new “sandwich generation.”

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“The repayment plan that I’m on has me scheduled to pay off my student loans the year that I retire,” he said. “How can I possibly as a parent straddle him with that same debt?”

President Joe Biden has proposed forgiving $10,000 for most students. Top Democratic Senators, along with Rep. Omar, are calling for up to $50,000 to be forgiven.

“Nearly 45 million Americans are shackled with student loan debt,” Omar said.

Thursday’s #CancelStudentDebt press conference in Washington D.C. (credit: CBS)

But with Washington D.C. stalled in partisan paralysis, parents are on their own.

Consultant Chris Wills of College Inside Track says changes in the 2023/2024 FAFSA — the federal student aid application — will start to affect families now because it’s based on two prior years’ tax returns. Families with two kids or more in college will likely qualify for less aid because of calculation changes. Changes for divorced parents could also lead to less aid.

But you could get more aid because cash gifts to the student won’t count against a student’s income.

“[It] could be uncle, aunt, friend, distant relative, grandparent, whatever,” Wills said.

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But right now, for families like the Muenchows, finding a distant relative to chip in seems as far-fetched as having Congress actually deliver help.

Esme Murphy