About 43 million Americans are burdened by $1.7 trillion in college loans.
A generation of Americans has been hamstrung in buying a home and raising a family by the massive debt they carry, an average of $30,000, according to US News & World Report.
It’s a national problem.
But the solution isn’t simply to forgive the loans or even a large portion of them.
On the campaign trail, President Joe Biden said he would consider up to $10,000 per borrower in debt relief while progressive candidates have argued for canceling up to $50,000 in debt. There is now a federal freeze on student loan repayment put in place by the Trump administration at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, but that ends Aug. 31.
White House press secretary Jenn Psaki recently said the president “would make a decision about any cancellation of student debt” before the end of August. Biden recently hinted to some members of Congress that the amount may be higher than his $10,000 campaign pledge.
The president’s critics cite his declining poll numbers, especially among young voters, and question whether Biden is simply trying to aid his party’s chances in the mid-term election.
We believe massive student loan forgiveness would be a mistake, for several reasons:
1. It’s a slap in the face to millions of Americans: While some grads drown in debt, others faithfully paid off their loans by saving more, working a second job or choosing a more affordable college. And what about blue-collar workers who have labored since leaving high school, only to find they are forced to pick up the tab for a loan others failed to repay?
2. It sends a terrible message: Canceling student debt would be another example that federal government — more specifically, taxpayers — are here to bail out any problem. In general, loan forgiveness should only occur if the borrower experienced unforeseen issues, such as a health crisis, not simply because they borrowed too much.
3. It could worsen inflation: The inflation rate is at a 40-year high, largely because the federal government has poured billions of dollars into the economy, reducing the purchasing power of the dollar. Freeing billions in debt would send another flood of cash into the economy.
A small amount of targeted debt relief could be understandable, especially for graduates held back in their careers by the pandemic. On the other hand, some graduates may face large debts but will be able to repay their loans in high-paying professional jobs, such as doctors and lawyers.
But no relief should be given without correcting the source of the problem. Since 1980, the cost of going to college has increased 1,200%, more than five times the overall inflation rate of 236%.
This needs to stop. Colleges must collectively work to reduce costs and increase aid to students.
Washington can help by stepping up policies to restrict predatory lending. Eighteen-year-olds should not be signing five- or six-figure loans they cannot possibly be assured of paying.
And parents and educators should resist pushing children into prestigious, costly colleges with no guarantee that students will have the ability to repay the loan. Affordable alternatives, such as Bristol Community College, can be used to get students started on a college education without overburdening them with debt.
There’s little doubt student debt is a problem.
Simply forgiving those loans is not the solution.
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