Jim Brown Audio Player
Monday, July 11th, 2022
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
STUDENT LOAN FORGIVENESS? NO WAY!
Forgive all outstanding student loans? Sure, why not. What this means is that all other taxpayers, that’s you and me, will pick up the cost and pay more taxes. And the price is really not all that much, is it? There are over forty-three million U.S. borrowers who owe nearly $1.6 trillion altogether in federal student loans. That’s 1,700,000,000,000 dollars.
The average amount of debt by students who graduate is less than $20,000. About six percent owe $100,000 or more. So why is the government even involved in lending and guaranteeing student debt? According to the Council on Foreign Relations, “the U.S. government invests in higher education for its people””through need-based tuition grants, student loan programs, veterans’ benefits, and research grants””because an educated and highly skilled workforce promotes national prosperity. Highly educated workers provide greater tax revenues, are generally more productive and civically engaged, and are less reliant on social programs.”
Nothing wrong with this reasoning. Except that many students and their families bite off much more than they can chew. Sure, we would all like to attend a private university where tuition costs alone can exceed $50,000 a year. But just like buying a home or buying a car, decisions must be made as to how much the borrower can afford. Some drive a Ford or Chevy, and others who can afford it drive a Cadillac.
I personally know something about paying back a student loan. When I was attending Tulane University in New Orleans in the early 1960s, I could not afford the tuition. And it was not for lack of trying. I worked summer jobs all through high school and college. During my time at Tulane, I held numerous part-time jobs, including playing my banjo on Bourbon St., being the night manager at a fleabag hotel on St. Charles Avenue, coaching little league basketball, and even dressing up like Yogi bear to advertise his latest movie. But that income still wasn’t enough to cover my tuition. So I applied for and received a federally guaranteed student loan.
When I graduated from law school, it was time to pay the piper. I started paying back my loan in 1966, and it took me 10 years to return the borrowed amount of $75,000 plus interest. A lot of money that in today’s dollars would be more than twice that amount. I was on my second term as a state senator when I finally paid off all that I borrowed. Louisiana Governor John bel Edwards did the same thing. He was several years into his term as governor before his student loans were paid off. But he paid back every penny along with interest. We were both glad to have the chance to borrow the money, and we never thought twice about asking that our loans be forgiven.
So did millions of other Americans who stood by the premise that a deal is a deal, and they had an obligation to pay their loan back. What about those students who chose to go to a trade school where student loans are in most cases unavailable? And of course there are millions of people who did not attend college at all. They will be stuck with paying additional taxes to cover the debt of those who borrowed more that they could afford, and are now asking the federal government to forgive what they borrowed.
Remember that students are not the only people who owe a debt to the government. Do we now forgive loans of individuals who borrowed for disaster assistance, farm programs, Covid loans, and a whole host of other government leading programs? Won’t these folks, for good reason, feel cheated?
The only exception that might make sense is to allow students a choice of either repaying their loan or participating in significant community service. Not just a few hours a week, but committed service in organizations like the Louisiana National Guard, AmeriCorps, Teach for America, Peace Corps, National Health Service Corps, or numerous other local and state service organizations.
For many years, American families struggled to save and send their kids to college. Thousands of students have often worked several jobs to help cover their college expenses. To forgive the debt of current borrowers reeks of a political payoff. Simply put, students who owe loans to the government should pay their debt and keep their self-respect.
Peace and Justice
Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownla.com. You can also look over a list of books he has published at www.thelisburnpress.com.