Editor’s note: this week Future vision assesses President Biden’s proposal to write off $ 10,000 in student loan debt per person. For next week, we’ll be asking students why movements like the one that targeted Dr. Seuss for “cancellation” are successful on and off campus. Click here submit notices of less than 250 words by March 9. The best answers will be published that evening.
President Biden’s proposal to write off student debt is regressive handout that fails to blame the real perpetrators of the debt crisis: the universities.
In 1979, annual undergraduate tuition at Cornell was $ 3,368, or about $ 13,000 after adjusting for inflation. Today it is north of $ 50,000. Universities charge these exorbitant fees, including for majors with little financial return, because they can get away with it without a problem. The government gives an easy line of credit to anyone who raises their hand. It’s like Oprah is in charge of the policy: “You get a loan! And you get a loan! And so on.
The government should not only regulate abusive increases in tuition fees, but also require universities to publish statistics on the financial performance generated by each major. Students should know this before taking out loans in the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.
If we write off some of the student debt, universities will raise tuition fees even further, possibly dragging the next generation of students even deeper into the debt spiral. Oh, and how will the majority of Americans who have never gone to college but have other debt feel about all of this?
—Rahul Srivastava, Cornell University, Law (JD)
The right balance
President Biden’s proposal to write off $ 10,000 in student debt per borrower strikes an effective balance. Student loans represent a major economic burden, reducing spending and savings for young people and adults of earning age. Some forgiveness will ease concerns about potentially debilitating debt and help stimulate the economy.
A study by the National Center for Education Statistics found that about 64% of people who default on their student loans owe less than $ 10,000. A significant portion of them have never graduated from university and come from underserved communities. They could use the help.
Too much debt forgiveness, however, would offer relief to those who don’t need it and raise serious equity issues for those who have paid off their debts. Debt forgiveness becomes more and more regressive as the amount of relief increases, helping those with the highest earning potential. As Mr Biden pointed out, any additional forgiveness could be better used for other purposes. His proposal could change the lives of millions of Americans for the better.
—Sunay Bhat, University of California, Los Angeles, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Put a name and a face on a check
I attend college that does not accept government funded loans. Instead, students receive support through generous donor-funded scholarships and school-run loan programs that personalize financial support. The great success of this system is that it preserves accountability and responsibility. Student loans, at its core, become a relationship in which a successful person looks at someone who has the potential to be successful and says, “I believe in you. Having a relationship with my loan manager motivates me to work harder in school to prove that the investment in me was worth it.
When I pay off my loans, the money will go directly to supporting other students in my alma mater, making it more of a philanthropic exercise than a forced payment. This is how loans should work. When the government gets involved, it destroys the lender-borrower relationship and therefore the aspect of personal accountability. Now, lenders are preying on naive young adults knowing that federal law protects their loans against bankruptcy, and student borrowers have come to blame the institutions that fund their education.
Does this evil system mean that we have to write off the debt and give up, in part or in whole, holding people accountable for their decisions? No. Instead, we should go back to a localized system in which students come to understand the seriousness of borrowing money rather than seeing it as a right.
—Callahan Stoub, Hillsdale College, history
President Biden’s debt cancellation proposal may sound generous, but it is a makeshift interim solution to a much deeper problem. The president only hit the $ 10,000 figure after rejecting $ 50,000 and pretending he lacked the power to act. Then, arguing that the extra money could be better spent on early childhood education, he implied a false choice. More recently, Mr Biden has suggested that those with larger debts must have attended elite private colleges, but that is not true.
The country can do more for its students. Mr. Biden’s evasive stance stems from his broader agenda of promoting unity. While it is laudable to try to heal political divisions, by trying to appease both sides, it often ends up not pleasing to either side.
—Riya Kale, University of Texas at Austin, Political Science and Business
A good investment
I am no stranger to economic precariousness. As a first generation Mexican immigrant who grew up in San Francisco, America’s most expensive city, I understand. But let’s be clear: student loans are not financial hindrances. These are investments in economic mobility.
I was the first in my family to go to college. I must have been more financially sober than many of my peers in prep school, where I was one of the “scholarship students” among San Francisco’s elite kids. While my friends went to small liberal arts colleges for $ 70,000 a year, I enrolled at nearby Berkeley City College. I saved tens of thousands of dollars in student loans by attending community college for my first two years and then transferring to the University of California. I still have loans, but I know it’s a worthwhile investment, not a burden.
At nearly 14%, the average return on investment for student loans is about twice the long-term average return for stocks and four times that for bonds. The average college graduate earns $ 30,000 more each year than the average worker with only a high school diploma, which will likely end up paying for President Biden’s proposal.
Progressives are generally against subsidizing already profitable investments. Why should student loans be any different?
—Ivan Varela, University of California, Berkeley, Economics and Theology
Cut Gen Z a little slack
The fairly common logic that “I had to pay all of my tuition, so they should pay too” is short-sighted. I have no problem offering relief even though I was fortunate enough to be able to pay my tuition in full. Students stranded with exorbitant debt will stifle the ability of the next generation to take economic risks, such as starting businesses and applying for loans.
—Ross Wheeless, University of Arizona, History (MA)
Who subsidizes whom?
Those who argue that the government should pay our college tuition often say that education is a good investment in America’s future. While it is true that going to university is good for a lot of people, it is definitely not a good thing. It might be nice for a person to get a doctorate, but someone else might be better off with just an undergraduate degree or without a degree. The value of education is not universal; it’s different for everyone. The best we can do is present the real costs of education so that people can decide for themselves what is worth paying now and in the future.
President Biden’s proposal to write off some student loan debt is a classic example of what the late economist Walter E. Williams has described as Congress “forcing one American to serve another’s goals.” Since college education typically results in higher future incomes, debt cancellation means all taxpayers, including low-income Americans, would subsidize the disproportionate and soon-to-be rich student body.
It is ironic that Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and many academics claim to be advocates for the oppressed while supporting this program of reverse income redistribution. This plan won’t make tuition cheaper, but as long as Americans want to live at the expense of other Americans, politicians will continue to come up with such proposals.
—Adam Stein, Washington University in St. Louis, chemical engineering
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