President-elect Joe Biden won’t take office until Jan. 20, but people are already discussing what will and will not change once he’s sworn in. One of the possible items on Biden’s Day 1 agenda is the student loan debt crisis. With student loan debt currently greater than $ 1.7 trillion nationwide, it’s no wonder that Biden and his team discussed ways to ease the burden of student debt. In a recent interview, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer suggested Biden could write off up to $ 50,000 in student loan debt per borrower – and do it very quickly, by decree.
But rather than arouse unanimous glee, the idea that countless Americans could suddenly be relieved of crippling debt was controversial, and #CancelStudentDebt began to catch on on Twitter. Not everyone was enthusiastic about the idea that people who currently have student debt would not have to pay the full amount.
Those who oppose the cancellation of student debt claim that it would create resentment among people who have spent a lot of time paying off their own college debt, who could have prioritized jobs that pay well on jobs they would enjoy, or delayed milestones like homeownership, marriage, or having a child because of their debt. They had to sacrifice themselves and suffer, and it irritates them that current and future college graduates may not have to sacrifice themselves and suffer in the same way.
One thing these people should keep in mind, however, is that their experience with massive student debt is not shared by all generations of students. From 1988 to 2018, the the cost of college increased by 213%. Unsurprisingly, wages have not increased by 213% during this period – in fact, they have remained pretty much stagnant since the 1970s. In 2019, for the first time, the average amount of debt that students who borrowed money graduated with was over $ 30,000. In addition, currently around 11% of student loans are in default or are more than 90 days past due. While federal student loan interest rates are currently set at 0% due to the pandemic, this expires after December 31, 2020 unless Congress extends it, and expected interest rates aren’t exactly low. For federal undergraduate loans made between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020, the the interest rate is 4.53%. For federal loans for graduate or professional studies contracted during this period, it is 6.08%. If someone leaves school with $ 30,000 in debt, the typical repayment plan would make them make their last payment. 20 years later. And although a person literally cannot pay them back, student loans are also extremely difficult to pay off when filing for bankruptcy; the public service loan exemption program is extremely difficult to enter. It is much more likely that someone will lose their home and then lose their student loan responsibilities. It’s no wonder that taking on student debt is such a huge psychological burden.
So with all the emotional weight attached to this type of debt, and if you’ve spent 20+ years never dining out or working 24/7 hoping to get a much needed raise to lower your current student loans, maybe it makes sense that you think everyone who went to college should live the same miserable way you do. This is Damon linkerIt makes sense, anyway.
But, it’s important to note that much of the “anger” that Linker tweeted about stems from different concepts of “fairness”. For some, this means subjecting others to whatever they have been subjected to, no matter how difficult and cruel it is. If you had to walk back and forth to get back to school in your day, that should be the cost for your kids as well. For others, fairness is about expediency: because you had to ride back and forth to get to school, you think it’s fair to use your experience to advocate for a public bus system for your children. The latter group believes in a society where people all work towards a future where everyone is on an equal footing and where those who are not wealthy can get a college degree without incurring $ 30,000 in debt or more. Student debt relief fixes what was wrong from the start – education so expensive it is out of reach for many. While some argue that going to college is a choice, it is undeniable that he feels like a requirement even for entry level positions in professional industries.
Perhaps more importantly, canceling student debt does not negatively affect those who have already paid off their student loans. To insist that others repay their loans in full, no matter how hard they are, is to demand suffering for the suffering. According to this logic, will those who survived COVID-19 be angry with people who can get vaccinated against it? Talmon Joseph Smith, editor at The New York Times, explained this visually using the famous cart problem as an example:
Another thing to consider is that the benefits for those recovering from student debt could be enormous. A National Bureau of Economic Research study found that people who have paid off some of their student debt “experience higher income growth and earn approximately $ 3,000 more in income over a three-year period after release”, for compared to those who have not been discharged of their debts. They were also more likely to move to different regions and change jobs more frequently – having less debt naturally gave them more flexibility and opportunities. The document notes that “forgiveness leads to a significant improvement in their financial conditions and better results in the labor market”.
And while critics of student debt cancellation argue that losing student loan payments would hurt the economy, it’s a loss that could be offset by collect more taxes from the richest Americans. American billionaires added over $ 600 billion to their wealth this year. Globally, the richest 500 people got $ 1.2 trillion richer in 2020. Instead of making millions of Americans who just wanted to go to college, get a voucher work and afford the kind of life that their parents could feel trapped for decades by mountains of debt, we have the chance to ease their burden and see how they can thrive. Suffering, after all, doesn’t make anyone stronger, it only hurts them. Why not prevent that if we can? Suffering is not a virtue; prevent the suffering of others is.
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