By Robert Alvarez
I borrowed money to pay for college. Like 45 million other Americans who did the same, I owe student loan debt.
My generation was sold a pipe dream about what a degree could mean for our future. I wanted so badly for this dream to come true that I leapt at the opportunity to take out loans.
What I didn’t know then was just how much the cost of higher education was soaring — and that colleges were hiking prices to take advantage of the federal government’s willingness to help poor and low-income students like me cover tuition.
I remember talking to my college counselor about how she paid $240 a year to attend one of the best universities in my home state. Since my counselor attended college, inflation has risen 645 percent. Meanwhile, tuition at the college she attended has risen 11,820 percent.
If you ask earlier generations how they paid for college, they say things like “I worked a part-time job after school.” Yeah, I did that, too. You know what that money went toward? Rent, gas, and bills. My McDonald’s job was barely enough to keep me afloat, let alone pay for my tuition and other expenses.
It was either take out student loans or drop out of college. I chose not to drop out.
I graduated and eventually got a job in my field. But with the rising cost of housing and everything else, that loan debt, which is already inflated by skyrocketing college costs, now feels suffocating. It prevents me from qualifying for a good mortgage loan and makes me second guess whether I can afford to have children.
My loan is just a tiny fraction of the national student loan debt. The $1.7 trillion student loan borrowers owe is a massive policy problem affecting everything from housing to the job market to retirement savings and so much more.
That’s why there’s a growing movement calling on the federal government to cancel some or all of this debt.
If the federal government canceled $50,000 worth of student loans, it would give 36 million borrowers a new lease on life. It could enable them to buy a house, start a family, or open a business.
I know it sounds like a radical idea to cancel up to $50,000 worth of student loan debt. It’s not.
If you’ll remember, former president Donald Trump and the Republican Party passed a $1.9 trillion, high-end tax cut in 2017 that’s been called “socialism for the rich.” It led to billionaires paying a lower average tax rate than the working class for the first time in U.S. history, and is directly responsible for corporate tax revenues plunging to near record lows.
That sounds a lot more radical to me than helping regular people. Even writing off every penny of student debt would cost less than Trump’s tax cuts for corporations and the rich.
President Biden has expressed interest in forgiving some student loan debt, although he’s indicated he may not cancel more than $10,000.
I’d welcome any amount being knocked off my loan. But I fear if Biden cancels only $10,000, he would fumble an enormous opportunity to improve millions of lives and give the economy a desperately needed shot in the arm.
The precedent is there. The U.S. has a long history of economic bailouts dating back to 1792.
The benefits are there. Studies show forgiving student loan debt would create jobs, grow the economy, and have the added benefits of helping to narrow the racial and gender wealth gaps.
And, importantly, student debt forgiveness has broad public support, including among people without a college degree and without student loan debt, as well as young people.
It’s time for the federal government to bail the people out. It’s time to cancel student loans.
Robert P. Alvarez is a media relations associate at the Institute for Policy Studies.
You’re such a one sided opinionated jerk!
Gee, I paid off my college loan debt, & a mortgage, & car loans & whatever else. Why can’t you? Or you need the American tax payer to bail you out?
I have an issue with cancelling ANY student debt. I paid for my children’s college education. I took out various loans to pay for it. When determining what they wanted to go to school for, we discussed opportunities for when they graduated. Like what jobs, pay scales, etc… We looked at schools they had been excepted to and what the cost of each. We looked at the rating for those programs they had interest in. What I am saying is that we just didn’t say pick wherever you want to go. We also applied for numerous scholarships and applied for those we felt we could. After this I still had significant loans that I had to get. (over $30,000)
I picked up a part time job on weekends to try and pay these loans off as soon as possible. I was able to pay all loans off in 8 years. It felt great. My children got the education they wanted and no loans over anyone’s head.
If Biden now comes out and knocks off any amount of student loans, I want some of my money back too. It should go back for all of us who took out loans and worked extra hard to pay them off as soon as possible. Why only those with outstanding balances? So I should have waited to pay off my loans to see if there was a chance to have the government pay my way?
What should happen is the interest rate being charged for these loans should be changed to the same rate the government charges banks to borrow money from the federal government. The rates being charged have been ridiculous and I feel taking advantage of us lower class people.
Cancel mortgages and credit card debt too then
You just cannot cancel student debt with a stroke of the pen. The debt will only be shifted to the tax payer. The loans will be paid one way or the other. What about those of us who worked 2 and 3 jobs to pay them off ? Do we get a refund? I don’t think so.
The Geode says
Why should I pay for your college debts? Nobody is trying to help me with all the credit cards that I maxed out…
Bla, Bla ,Bla You bash Trump, but what has Traitor Joe done for this country, other than make us weak, ruin the economy, pretty much screw up everything he touches, and nothing to report there? You fools are about to see why the United states has been a force, up until all this woke crap come into play. Worship the criminal, turn your back on the ones, who lay there life on the line every day, for you ungrateful idiots.
Vaxed Sez says
Lamo, can you expand on what your saying and give specific examples? Not those cockamamie lies that Faux News spits your way, we would like to hear real examples. No? Didn’t think you could.
People should pay their bills. The question is will Ukraine pay the millions this country have put in their hands? Just asking.
Welcome to real life Mr. Student ! You chose to sit in school and not have a job ! Now you want every taxpayer to pay your debt . I had plenty of credit card debt incurred to pay extra bills when I was unable to cover those bills while still working everyday . Will you help pay of my debt after all” I am a regular guy ” too !? How about all those college students protesting in 2020, burning down peoples business, looting, damaging public buildings, causing death and mayhem. You want all taxpayers to cover their student debt too ! really ! Sorry the highest inflation in 40 years has made the the costs to live with student debt so hard for spoiled college student. Guess you have to do as I did. Work two and three jobs and pay off your debt ! It works ! and nobody gave me anything to do it other than my health, desire , and faith to accomplish it ! In addition I payed in full for my community college when personal funds were scarce with no help from the public. Pay off your debt which you chose to incur. Will make you a better person !
Ed Danko says
Typical liberal garbage! It really doesn’t get any dumber than this. What’s next, forgive my mortgage and my car payment? Liberals always look for a free ride. I can’t wait until President Trump is reelected in 2024. Let’s Make America Great Again, AGAIN and put an end to these socialist, communist anti-American stupid ideas.
He wont run IMO but IF the loser does he will lose bigly and I feel tfg knows it just sayin
Stop selling kids an empty promise of STEM will take care of you. Need more trade schools in this country before more degrees that just put them in line with everyone else for a handful of jobs. Jobs that will give them Union wages.
Vaxed Sez says
Settle down Edward, I don’t think your orange messiah is reading your dribble.
The dude says
I’ve paid off two sets of student loans for myself.
And my oldest son just graduated college without borrowing a penny.
All that being said, I fully support student loan forgiveness.
Boomers have done to higher education what they do to everything they’ve touched. Taken full advantage of it for themselves while affordable and accessible, then done their best to make it inaccessible and unaffordable to all who come behind them, all the while griping about how bootstrappy they were to get through college “on their own” and how everybody else is weak in today’s world.
The only thing growing faster than the cost of a college education these days, is the ease with which one can finance that education. It’s the ultimate grift pulled off by a pair of institutional shysters who profit mightily while literally condemning millions to a lifetime of financial slavery. Just like the boomers planned it.
Cancel that debt Joe. Give an entire generation a new outlook on life just like trump did for corporations and billionaires.
Who knows, there might just be a number of future billionaires about to be unleashed as a result of any student loan cancellation. Then they too would be able to enjoy tax rates lower than the working middle class.
Dude: This boomer worked two jobs and went to college part time because that’s all I could handle. I could not go to school full time. One day, I put on my bar tending uniform and headed for school when I was supposed to head to work , that’s how difficult it became. I paid my own schooling, rent, health insurance, car insurance, food, gas and what not. As a white woman, I got no help from any organizations. I got a dime from no one. I made it through two years of college in four years, before I got burned out, and still graduated with a 4.0 average. The only loans I ever got were for buying cars or houses, all of which were paid off. I am debt free. I have worked hard and done well because of it.
You write as if we seniors intentionally did all that we could to hurt our children and grandchildren. What utter nonsense! There is no logic in what you write. You are just another crybaby who wants to blame others for your problems. Extremely annoying, but I’ll get past that too.
James McDonna says
Take a class in basic economics and you will see that this is a terrible, shameful and a pandering attempt at voter bribery.
I went to college, had student loans and managed my debt responsibly. I worked while in school at various jobs and I knew that applying for loans on a consistent basis would one day catch up. Again
I managed my debt responsibly.
Why is college is so expensive in the first place ? Is there really a big difference between one school or another ?
How much student debt pays for University tenure, faculty housing, facility financial perks, administration salaries, etc.
Amassing incredibly debt and then expecting others to pay for it is a practice that has gone on for to long in this country, take responsibility for your own actions.
If you took out the load you own it. My parents could not afford to help me and I worked during my vacations, no partying on spring break, and along with loans that I paid back, struggled through. Lots of ramen noodles for dinner. Take some damn responsibility for your decisions. If you chose a worthless degree (like journalism, at least what it has become or liberal arts) that does not pay enough to pay back the loan YOU took out, that is your problem not mine, not anyone else’s.
Michael Cocchiola says
Do this, Democrats. To hell with Republican screams and whines. You want the youth vote, you want to help ordinary people, do something!!
Time to play hardball.
At least you admit your kind is just buying votes.
The dude says
Met with the usual chorus of self aggrandizing fantasies on how bootstrappy and self made they all were.
It even drew the ire of a certain local elected official who recently used his elective office and the powers contained within to literally vote himself a 365% raise from our tax dollars. (I guess he abandoned his boycott of Flaglerlive, who here ever doubted for a second this would be the case?)
Cancel those student loans Joe!!!! Put that money in the hands of the real drivers of the economy, the consumers.
I’d actually be happy with the following:
1. Eliminate all interest for current and future loan holders. This is the killer on these loans. It’s more than the interest on houses, cars, etc. I’m a person. I do not accrue more value over time. I’m not a risky investment. These loans, regardless of interest, are mostly held by the government. I have no choice but to pay them back or my life will essentially be ruined. I don’t need interest as a motivator and the fact that Biden has reduced the deficit by a great deal despite no SL payments for 2 years indicates the interest isn’t warranted.
2. Roll back the loans to principal only. I took out $60,000 in loans. Because of interest, I owe almost $130,000. I’ve paid on these loans for almost 15 years, a total amount of 2 car payments each month and yet because of interest, I’ll never pay these off. I’m paying the most I can pay each month without harming myself financially in other areas.
3. Apply all monies paid thus far to the principal. I’ve paid $81,000 over those 15 years. My “principal” should be paid off. My loans done. They’re not. Again, the interest (which bounced between 6.5-11.5% despite refinancing), is the absolute killer here. Do this and it’ll be more help than people realize.
4. Make State College free. Other counties treat the first 4 years of college as an extension of HS and it’s free or nominal cost. Anything above that is paid for by the student. No reason the “greatest” country on earth can’t do that either.
5. For private institutions – stop predatory lending. Most of these people taking out loans are kids. 17 or 18. They don’t know or understand the consequences. Educate them about what it means to take on this debt. Not everyone has parents or a choice. I went to college to better myself but also because it was that or be homeless. At least at college I had a roof and food and a shower. We don’t all have the privilege of having a family or even a support network.
6. Allow the SL debt to be charged off in bankruptcy court if certain criteria is met. Right now they are exempt and certain people literally have to choose between these loans and medication or food. In the “greatest” country on earth, “cough, cough,” it shouldn’t be a choice between staying alive and paying bills.
BRAVO! Fix The System! All excellent ideas! If only our government officials at all levels would implement such programs!
Dear Fix: I do sympathize with you, but don’t entirely agree. I know of other 40 somethings who are in the same boat. The predatory lending is shameful in this county, but I don’t believe in erasing the debt completely. Instead, roll back these loans to the original debt. Then, put in a fixed rate of 2% interest and recalculate. For those of you who have paid into the loans, deduct what you have paid from the new debt. If you overpaid, then the debt is satisfied, but not refunded. After all, the loan was an agreement. Live and learn.
I know the government will lose in these recalculations, but it deserves this reckoning by bringing in private industry. Had it stayed with a fixed lower rate, that kept with the average inflation rate, it could have been a percentage that was workable for the student and not made a profit for the government, but not a burden either.
Just dems desperate to buy weak minded college students votes!
Jay Maher says
There is no such thing as student loan debt cancellation. Student loan debt would not be canceled it would simply be transferred to taxpayers that had nothing to do with the transaction. How about we transfer that debt to over priced colleges and universities that sold these people useless degrees! Make them pay it back from their bloated budgets.
How can you forgive the debt for all veterans? Many joined because one of the reasons was paid education, either old GI bill or the new system. How do you pay back four years of life?
Hammock Dave says
How about we seize the endowments of the colleges and use that to pay off the student debt? And the assess fees to the colleges to make up any shortfalls. And freeze the level of student borrowing so the schools can’t jack their prices again?
Amazing how in all of this back and forth, nobody ever calls out their culpability.
I agree with all the comments except the one that says to forgive the debt. As a retired senior with a fixed income I cannot take on your debt!!!
John Yankovich says
Mr. Cocchiola, talk is cheap. Go start a national go fund page and send a seed money check for $50,000. Put your money where your mouth is!!!!
Republicans have a better idea. (Sarcasm)
Bail out the banks and corporations and give the rich a tax break.
Don’t forget the subsides for the oil companies and tax breaks for private jet and yacht owners.
You all know I’m certainly a passionate Democrat, however, even I do not think that arbitrarily forgiving student loans is fair to the millions of college graduates and their families who previously sacrificed to pay their debts. Also, it doesn’t appear that loan forgiveness does anything to address the problems with the rising cost of higher education.
Certainly other options should include addressing the astronomical price for tuition. Perhaps increasing the number of merit scholarships, etc. Looking at all the different ways to make college more affordable for future generations and taking action to make a college education more available to all those who qualify academically regardless of their family’s financial situation.
I can find no reason whatsoever to give college kids refunds for their debts. Do you give people who bought a home and can’t pay their mortgage relief, no they get foreclosed on and go homeless. These kids and their parents chose to send thes kids to college. Why should the rest of the taxpayers in the USA pay for a service these kids received and voluntarily signed up for. My husband took ten years to pay off his college loan to a state school. I fail to see any true economic justification. I do see a political justification, votes.
the colleges also took advantage of the student loan program. The cost of tuition, room and board, books and high raises for staff and even higher raises for administration. The colleges took advantage of the plan knowing they would get the money they asked for. Colleges get HUGE amounts of donations—no need to raise fees, etc. It’s always the regular person that gets hurt. Somewhere I heard that many students financed their elaborate spring break with their student loan access.
I don’t think the debt should be forgiven but, like someone mentioned, lower the interest rate substantially.
My husband and I raised 3 children and did the best we could. We provided for their shelter, food, clothing, medical needs and all other necessities as any good parent should. And it was not always easy, but we did it. However, when it came to a college education, I told my children that if their father and I could have paid for a college education we may have done so, but we were not able to so my kids had to figure it out themselves. So yes, they took out student loans and are paying them off. I do not believe it is a requirement for parents to pay for their children’s college education, help out sure. We made sure they had medical coverage, a car and took care of the car insurance and helped to supply the necessities for a dorm room or off campus housing. Besides, I think that a college education means more to any kid who does it on their own because it makes them more responsible to attend class and do the work especially if a scholarship depends on a certain GPA and not party, party, party. Will my kids get a refund on what they have paid so far? Just asking.
Samuel L. Bronkowitz says
Curing cancer isn’t fair to all of those other people that got cancer and died so we shouldn’t do it