Just last night on October 14th, Biden’s Student Loan Forgiveness Plan applications went live on the Federal Student Aid website. These applications would grant you $10,000 if you did not receive Pell Grants and $20,000 if you went to college on Pell Grants, along with extending the Student Loan Pause to December 31st of 2022.
While this Relief plan would wipe out the debt of approximately 33% of loan holders along with allowing many more to afford to by houses and cars, the plan is extremely short sighted and misses the problem surrounding student debt in its entirety.
Student debt is a cork, blocking the access and opportunities of millions to reach potential positions of power and wealth. Asides from the obvious moral dilemmas that come with putting young adults under life shattering amounts of debt, U.S Democracy as a whole suffers as a result of what is an essentially business – focused University structure. Sheri Burman, a Professor of Political Science at Columbia University, when mentioning causes for populism and general decline of democracy, commonly refers to similar reasons across the board, two of which student debt significantly highlights. Those two are “High and Rising Inequality” which is assumed when addressing the topic, and the “An Unrepresentative Senate.” The Unrepresentative Senate comes as a reaction to the high and rising inequality. To fit it into the situation, address earlier, imagine an aspiring politician, or even student that dreams to work in government. They come from a family that is bordering on the poverty line but work hard their whole life to receive acceptance into top universities like Harvard and Yale. Harvard charges almost $400,000 for a 4-year undergraduate program, even with $20,000 shaved off that total, is this student and aspiring politician going to ever be in a situation where they could take a risk or find an opportunity to run for an office? Never, they will be paying off their debts for years, if not decades, even with wage premium jobs they could receive out of undergrad. When putting the pieces together, seeing how an unrepresentative Senate could develop is plain as day. Lower income populations simply do not ever have a chance to personally become a representative at a national level of Congress. What happens as a result, is privileged, out of touch political elites becoming the representatives across the board, and even if they attempt to act in good faith, they very rarely have the life experience nor straight intellect to act in the desire of the lower to middle class of society.
What are plausible potential solutions to the problem regarding this ever-growing amount of enormous student debt spread across the country? Partial debt relief, free college, even a complete wipe of all student debt does not address the problem. The problem is the lucrative amounts that private universities at the top of the table continue to charge a fortune for tuition each semester without a proportional return of investment. Rise of cost has NO statistical correlation with graduation rates, along with instruction being invested in the least of all college growth spending areas as stated by Saagar Enjeti[i]. These reforms are zero sum, they spread the problem amongst the population instead of addressing the problem at the roots. The government would cripple if trillions of taxpayer dollars were used to wipe out student debt, just for that debt to come back within a couple decades. It makes no sense for these reforms to continue the way they are, even if the most radical form of them were implemented, because the source of the problem in the tuition cost is not being directly targeted,
U.S Democracy is being threatened at a degree that will continue to grow as the years go on, and the policy decisions that are being pushed by the progressive left that continue to garner support are missing the problem that has developed over the last two decades. Heavy regulation of university tuition across the board is really the only answer that sufficiently addresses the problems with American higher education, but does the public really want the government’s fingers within every nook and cranny of their education? That is the true tradeoff, government is inconsistent, untrustworthy, and generally just as corrupt as the education system, can we trust them with the only solution that could save the development of generational youth in our country?
[i] Sagaar Enjeti, Breaking Points, Podcast Audio, August 22, 2022, https://youtu.be/YyHAuMIkP0g
“These reforms are zero sum, they spread the problem amongst the population instead of addressing the problem at the roots.” Making taxpayers pay for college students’ debts not only spreads the problem amongst the population, but it does so in an indiscriminate manner regardless of one’s financial situation or education standing. Someone who did pay off all their college debts now has to pay for the unpaid debts of others, someone who became a plumber after high school now also has to pay for the debts of those who went to universities and who have a higher income trajectory than themselves, not to mention 50% of all university student debts are held by graduate students, so to make everyone else pay for a debt which is half held by 13% of the university attending population is morally wrong, socially unacceptable, and short-sighted (https://www.cnbc.com/2021/07/16/graduate-students-owe-around-50percent-of-all-student-debt.html).
In exchange for prolonged adolescent hood where people can have 0 to very few responsibilities, university as an institution strongly promotes indentured servitude by encouraging students to take out hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans, even for degrees which are not scalable and don’t have a guaranteed financial return in their respectable professions after graduation (liberal art degrees mostly instead of STEM majors).
A person can easily get a college education, even from institutions such as Harvard, online virtually for free if one knows where to look. What we are paying for is not the education, but the proof of the fact that we have paid for it. We are not paying for knowledge, we are paying for the certificate of status.