Why Biden Should Not Forgive Student Debt
As of this writing, the student debt in the U.S. is a whopping $1.7 trillion. As each week drudges on, tuition goes higher and higher.
On average, college students graduate with a bachelor’s degree and $30,000 in debt. College graduates have to hunt for a job to pay off their debt while saving money, buying a car to get to and from work, take out a mortgage to live with their significant other while paying bills, and raising their kids.
Some have suggested the Biden administration should forgive student debt. Is this the answer? What are the intentions behind doing so, and what would be the result?
Why do people want student debt forgiven?
Currently, 1 in 6 people owe money on a student loan in the U.S. This is why Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders advocated for student debt relief. Both were realistic, saying it would be paid for by raising taxes on the ultra-wealthy.
The result would be borrowers could escape debt. This would stimulate the economy, as borrowers would now spend said money and it would improve the economy.
The two problems with paying off student debt
Forgiving student debt doesn’t benefit everyone
The remaining 5 in 6 Americans who don’t have student debt wouldn’t be directly impacted by the student loan forgiveness program. If we forgave all student debt tomorrow, those 5 in 6 people wouldn’t feel anything but remorse and frustration.
In a country where there is mass unemployment, millions on the verge of eviction, and so many suffering from coronavirus hospital bills, forgiving student debt is a poor choice to make, as there are clearly other priorities that should be addressed instead.
Those who would be most frustrated would be the non-educated. They don’t directly benefit from forgiving student loans.
I’d suggest the old saying here: the rich get richer, while the poor get poorer. If we forgive student debt to say, a doctor, a civil engineer, or a computer scientist, they’d have a much larger paycheck at the end of the month.
Meanwhile, the non-educated Walmart employees who couldn’t afford to go to college and chose not to apply or didn’t qualify for a loan would continue to live paycheck to paycheck. Business owners who didn’t attend college to help their family make ends meet would be frustrated from hearing their customers saying they have a bigger paycheck, but then don’t leave a better tip.
Some would be furious if student debt was forgiven
There’s a very good video from C-SPAN where a voter confronts Elizabeth Warren regarding student loans. In the video, the voter points out he and his daughter saved up money, worked extra jobs, and used the income to help his daughter pay for college. His daughter has no student debt. He asks Senator Warren, is he getting his money back?
While others amassed large amounts of student debt, he and his daughter saved up every penny to avoid student loans. While he and his daughter were financially responsible, they will not be directly impacted by the student loan forgiveness plan. And those who either paid off their student loans or worked multiple jobs to avoid them have every right to be furious. They spent their hard-earned money to pay for college, while others would have that debt forgiven. That is simply inconsiderate.
It’s a short term solution
If the federal government forgave student loans tomorrow, it becomes a short-sighted solution. What happens to the students who applied for a student loan yesterday? What happens to the high school students who are finding out they don’t qualify for a full-ride scholarship, and now need to take out a loan?
Forgiving student debt wouldn’t be an end-all solution. It would simply reset the clock, but the clock would keep on running. The student debt could run right back up to $1.7 trillion even faster than before as students would assume it would be forgiven a second time. That’s a dangerous assumption people would make if the federal government forgives student loans.
What’s the alternative?
There are two alternatives to forgiving student debt. One is done on the individual level, and the other done on a federal government level.
Individuals attend affordable colleges
High schools put a lot of pressure on students to go to college right after graduation. They also put pressure on students to pick a career they’d like for the rest of their life, despite most kids having no idea what career they’d like to pursue.
If a high school senior wants to become a nurse, there is absolutely nothing wrong with them attending a community college and receiving a degree as a medical assistant, working for a few years, then taking the money they’ve earned and applying to a public university. Once they receive their bachelor’s, they can use that degree to work in a better paying job, save up money, then apply for medical school.
If a high school student wants to become a teacher, they can take education courses at a community college while working as a substitute, then taking their earned income and transferring their credits to a four-year university. There is no pressure for a high school graduate to become a teacher at 22. There are plenty of first-year teachers who are 26, 30, even 40 years old.
Of course, these situations apply to students who don’t receive full-ride scholarships and don’t want to apply for student loans. There are plenty of MIT students who receive full-ride scholarships and will never see a student loan application for the rest of their life. For those that do receive full-ride scholarships to an in-state or out-of-state university, I encourage them to pursue their passion and achieve their dreams.
It’s highly recommended to apply for as many scholarships as possible, no matter the student’s gender, race, or their parent’s income level. There are scholarships out there for people who want to be teachers, doctors, and business majors. In fact, Walmart employees can obtain a degree in business or management, and Walmart will cover most of the tuition (Walmart says employees will only have to pay $1 a day for their employees to obtain a college degree in those fields).
The federal government should regulate university prices or make college free
Rather than forgive all student debt, it would be wiser, especially long term, if the federal government regulated tuition costs. In the last thirty years, tuition costs for public universities have gone up by 213%. Meanwhile, the minimum wage in the U.S. has only gone up by 90% in the same amount of time ($3.80 to $7.25). How can college be affordable when neither tuition rates nor the minimum wage has any government oversight?
While raising the minimum wage would make this article irrelevant, as part-time workers with higher wages could afford paying for college without taking out loans, Congress is reluctant on raising the minimum wage. Therefore, the alternative is to make public colleges and universities affordable. While it does nothing to alleviate student debt, it does make college more affordable for high school graduates who don’t qualify for the FAFSA or don’t receive scholarships. Instead of taking out loans, they could pay for college while working part-time if tuition was regulated and adjusted for inflation by the federal government. This would be a better long-term solution than paying off all student loans tomorrow.
The best alternative would be if the federal government made two-year, maybe even four-year, public colleges and universities free for all Americans, but that’s unlikely to happen in a GOP-controlled Congress. President Obama proposed making two-year colleges free, but that was met with criticism by both the left and the right.
Forgiving student loans would stimulate the economy, but not all would feel the impacts directly or right away. It’s a short-sighted solution that needs further investigation. While beneficial to some, it doesn’t benefit all people, and the alternatives are a much better long-term solution that would enhance the workforce and allow more people to go to college without contributing to the student debt crisis.