Greetings and Salutations;
The Biden Administration is pushing ahead and making significant advances in undoing the madness of the proceeding administration, and, dealing some some serious issues facing citizens.
One of the long-term issues that has been the subject of discussion for decades is the problem of student loans, taken out to allow a person to obtain a college degree. This program, created some 60 years ago, in 1958, was originally designed to provide low-interest loans to the less affluent, allowing them to go to University, and get a degree. This, at least in theory, would give them a big hand up to improve their earning potential, and subsequently, move them into the upper, middle class society (at least!). Well, this premise has been under attack ever since then, and these days is truly broken. As I see it, there are two, major changes to society and government that turned it from a blessing to a curse. The first of these was the continual push by the Republicants to remove or weaken the regulations governing these loans. This ongoing campaign caused a huge number of very predatory lenders to dive into the marketplace, and hard-sell the students their products. This also caused the interest rates on these loans to skyrocket, often without the recipients understanding what this meant, or, for that matter, even really realizing it was happening. The second change was to the higher education system itself. As always happens, the money flowing to the students attracted the capitalists, who followed their basic rule of life – to get as much of that money with as little cost and effort as possible. In order to do this, many “For Profit” “Colleges” were set up, and staffed with sales folks focused on selling their product to as many students as was possible. too often, this hard sell included out an out lies about how valuable a degree from their college would make a person; about how there were guaranteed jobs for the college’s graduates; and about the heightened earning potential that one of their graduates would have. The reality was far different. These colleges often jacked up the prices of classes and needed materials – causing students to have to increase the loan debt they were carrying; Too often the level of instruction was obviously inferior to what the students had been promised.
An easy example of this was the infamous “Trump University”, where students were given the impression that #45 would be doing a lot of the actual education they were receiving…but when they got there, often they were taught by near incompetents, who MIGHT have graduated from Trump U, and, the closest they might get to #45 himself was a short video tape played in class…or some overpriced books, supposedly written by him.
This resulted in a person ending up with $10s of thousands in debt, with a painfully high interest rate, being handed a diploma that was not worth the fake parchment it was printed on. They would take this education they received out into the world…to find doors slammed in their faces time and time again. Very often, when they did manage to get a job in their field, they would find out very quickly that their education was useless…it did NOTHING to give them the tools they needed to be competent.
While it was not directly a part of the above issues, for many years, the employment situation in the society was a buyer’s market. There was such a flood of “qualified applicants” for a given job that not only was it amazingly difficult to get and hold a job, but, management had the power to push the salaries and benefits way down, and treat the workers as if they were garden slaves. Management knew it would be easy to replace any worker with any of a dozen or more that were looking for work. These problems left the workers insecure, and making a LOT less money at their job than they had been promised, or even had anticipated. As a result, loan payments were delayed, and the usurious interest amounts piled up.
Today, we have around 42 million citizens who have significantly large student loans that they are struggling to pay off. Just today, I heard an article on NPR, where a student who had been paying on their loan for 20 years was still struggling…and as a matter of fact, owed MORE than the original amount they had borrowed! This is just the latest example of this issue…over the years I have heard interviews with a dozen or more students in the same boat.
For some time now, there has been a ground-swell of support for the government to simply write off the balances of the long-term loans to people, and, to extend that to the private lenders who are profiting hugely off these loans. As of today, the Biden Administration has taken the first, major step towards that goal. The government is forgiving up to $20,000 of any student loan they have outstanding…and now that the dam has cracked, it would not be a huge surprise to see the entire amount written off in the near future. The original post is this:
Today, President Biden announced student loan debt relief that will include up to $20,000 erased for Pell Grant recipients, $10,000 for everyone else making under $125k annually ($250k for married couples who file taxes jointly), and extending the moratorium on payments through December 31st.
There’s going to be a lot of discussion on whether this is enough, but one argument I keep seeing against student loan debt relief comes from people who have already paid off their student loans or taxpayers who never had to take out any loans but whose taxes would go to pay off others’ loans and believe it’s unfair to them that those who are still in crushing debt will see some relief.
I acknowledge that resentment, and while we’re on the subject of unfairness, I have some thoughts to offer for your consideration.
I think it’s unfair that most children in poverty in this country will never receive the benefits of a quality early childhood education, either because they can’t afford it or don’t have access to it, leaving them with a development disadvantage compared to their peers. I was one of them.
I think it’s unfair that that most children in this country don’t have access to tutoring outside of school, meaning that, with each passing year, they fall further behind their peers whose families can afford tutoring. I was one of them.
I think it’s unfair that there are millions of families who have to move constantly because of unsteady employment, and their children don’t receive the advantages of living in communities longterm and building a support system with teachers and peers that support their development. I was one of them.
I think it’s unfair that there are children living in abusive homes and children who lack living essentials and children who can’t afford school supplies but are expected to compete with their peers who don’t have these problems, year after year. I was one of them.
I think it’s unfair that the quality of a child’s public school education is significantly based on the zip code in which they live, and that children from poorly funded public schools are expected to compete with children from wealthy zip codes. I was one of them.
I think it’s unfair that many children stop asking their parents for help with homework because by third grade, they’ve learned, on their own, that their parents are unequipped to help them and they’ve realized, by that age, that asking their parents for help makes their parents feel bad. So, they stop asking for help. I was one of them.
I think it’s unfair that there are millions of young people who are told to study for college admission standardized tests like the SAT and ACT but must do so without benefit of a prep program and must compete with young people who have access to all types of prep programs and tutoring because their parents can afford it. I was one of them.
I think it’s unfair that a young person is expected to compete for admission to an elite university against a young person who is likelier to be admitted solely because their parent attended that university, too.
I think it’s unfair that even if a young person has done everything right—good grades, good behavior, plenty of extracurriculars, etc.—she may still be denied admission because a lesser deserving young person has a parent who can buy a building on campus and claims that spot.
I think it’s unfair that extracurricular items that set apart young people on college applications are far more accessible to young people whose parents can afford their participation.
I think it’s unfair that, from their very first day of school, children with disabilities are at a distinct disadvantage across the board when it comes to competing for college admission because their schools and communities don’t want to invest in disability access, putting up nearly insurmountable hurdles for the vast majority of young people with disabilities.
I think it’s unfair that white children, regardless of class, receive all sorts of unearned advantages in the education system that make it easier to compete and that, from day one, children of color, particularly Black children, are targeted by implicit biases in schools, and I say that as someone who was once a white child in poverty.
I think it’s unfair that when I graduated from high school, my father apologetically handed me a $1,000 U.S. Savings Bond he had scraped enough money together to buy in the first year after I was born and said that was the best he could do to help me pay for school, and I think it’s unfair that I felt the need to comfort him because I, too, knew it was the best he could do and that it was a hell of a lot more than other young people got from their parents.
I think it’s unfair that, like millions of young people in this country, I knew that my best shot at being able to pay for college was joining the military and earning G.I. Bill benefits, and as grateful as I am for those benefits, there isn’t a month that goes by that I haven’t thought of how fucked up it is that any young person would need to literally pledge their lives for the benefit of disastrous foreign policy decisions made by politicians whose children will never have to do the same.
I think it’s unfair that Arlington National Cemetery is filled with the graves of young people who joined the military to pay for college and avoid crushing debt and were killed in needless wars and never got to see the life ahead of them, let alone use those benefits they had earned.
I think it’s unfair that military recruiters disproportionately visit schools where they know families are far more likely to be unable to pay for a college education, and as much as I am proud to have served my country in uniform, I think this practice is predatory and disgusting.
I think it’s unfair that politicians go into impoverished and middle class communities and talk about how “college isn’t for everyone” and promote the benefits of learning a trade and I agree with that sentiment, but I notice they never seem to go into affluent communities and encourage their children to forego college and learn a trade.
I think it’s unfair that any politician with children in private schools would have the audacity to tell the parents of children in public schools what they should and shouldn’t do to achieve a better life.
I think it’s unfair that established professionals in any field would communicate to young people that they’re more likely to get internships in that field if they attend certain elite colleges that require crushing student loans to attend and this is somehow seen by anyone as appropriate.
I think it’s unfair that there are countless stories of young people who take out enormous loans to attend a good college and get a good job after graduation and make their loan payments on time and, somehow, wound up paying far more than what was lent to them because of predatory interest rates.
I think it’s unfair that many of the older people who downplay the crushing student loan debt faced by young people are the same ones who had to pay a fraction of today’s tuition for the same degree they once earned. Same for housing. Same for health care. Same for childcare.
I think it’s unfair that many of those in this country with extraordinary privilege are all-too-happy to pit middle class families against working class families against impoverished families and distract us from the fact that the system in which we all live only really works for them. And I think it’s unfair that this is by design.
Listen, I don’t think it’s particularly radical for any reasonable adult to concede that this whole damn system is unfair from the moment a child is born in this country.
So, when I see someone complain that they paid off their crushing student loan debt, so others should have to do the same, all I can think is:
Why would you want others to needlessly suffer just because you had to needlessly suffer?
I don’t have all the answers. I understand that alleviating this unfair system is complex and requires good faith and concessions from everyone in order to reach a fair compromise, and I don’t pretend to know exactly how we should go about that.
But I do think concessions should start at the top with people whose lives have benefited the most from this system.
And now that I’ve used a ladder that was passed down to me, I fully intend to make sure everyone else can climb it, too.
I think that’s more than fair.
Of course, this has caused much consternation among some folks, who feel that, since they paid off THEIR loans successfully, no one should get such a wind-fall. I just was involved in a discussion thread about this on FaceBook, and, thought I would quote it, both to see the original comment, and (among others) my explanation of why I think that student loan forgiveness is an action whose time has come:
RNC: I read it [The Above Post], and I’m still outraged. Use that money, then, to improve schools, provide meals, provide school enrichment classes and tutoring. What about support to veterans who are homeless or suffer from emotional/psychiatric issues? Use the money for that. What about the folks who couldn’t afford or perhaps didn’t want to go to college? I have plenty of relatives and friends who were blue collar workers. They will be taxed for this forgiveness – nothing is free. I could go on and on.
How about the schools forgive some of that debt, or, lower the cost of college, since that cost is outrageous? I was divorced after 20 years, with no child support or alimony. I managed to get my kids thru college by working 60+ hours per week…and receiving a loan in their names. I paid off that debt, again by working 60+ hours per week.
I have 2 stepchildren whose father saved for YEARS, to pay for their college. They took out student loans for grad school – after much counseling from us about earning potential and financial responsibility.
I’m over the handouts – live up to your potential, honor your debts and your other responsibilities…
Not personal to you, Cathy [original Poster], of course, just very bothered.
PD: You are correct in that all of these issues need to be addressed. My personal feelings are that if the church as a whole (and I’m included in this) did what God calls us to do then a majority of these programs wouldn’t need to exist. The problem with the school system is predatory lending from lending institutions and for-profit universities such as the University of Phoenix and even ITT Technical College. These same students would have to co-sign for a car but can sign for 10s of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Additionally, many public schools have gotten rid of non-collegiate tracks and have been pushing students towards college, no matter their goals or ability level. That along with the extremely inflated costs of colligate courses. The system as a whole is a dumpster fire. Once again, not trying to argue against the points that you raised because there is validity and reason for outrage there. Just trying to point out the issues with the education system.
RNC: PD: I agree with you about that. In some ways, like the housing debacle. Everyone “deserves” a house, so lenders made loans available to those who could not afford them. My issue is forgiving all this debt – on top of all the other handouts people think are needed. We need restraint and better management across the board.
Being reasonable about expectations is needed also. Maybe a student doesn’t need to go to that high cost college, go to a public university (even tho they’re expensive too). Also, high schools are leaning tech course loads again – or at least they are in our area. That’s a plus for those kids.
Thank you for a reasonable response. That doesn’t happen often and I appreciate the conversation!
DD: RNC: There is no rational reason we can’t do both. Well, except that we as a nation refuse to pay for it. Which is really the whole problem with education in general.
PD: Thats great to hear about the tech courses and tracks. I taught in Ga for 10 years and was so frustrated at the decline of tech programs and tracks.
And yes thank you for the dialogue!
BAS: RNC: this is personal. We’re currently qualified for income based repayment, which is a really helpful program that just got better. There was a brief window where mere politics would have made our payment skyrocket to more than double our mortgage payment monthly. Just based on who is sitting in the White House office. It was that close last year.
We were told my spouse would make enough money to pay off loans incurred in grad school, but churches are struggling to make budgets so suggested pastoral income is just that, suggested. We work so hard to secure his income and have no guarantees. Meanwhile this affects every decision of our lives – our housing, our family plans, my own career…
I’m really lucky my parents and good scholarships were able to help me through undergrad, but more and more careers are requiring masters level degrees. Even with this forgiveness we won’t be out from under this debt. It merely gives us breathing room. We’re lucky because we have familial support if things get bad, but what if things get bad for all at once (like 2020) and we can’t get help? The last few years would have been exponentially harder if loan payments had not been paused while everything else around us gets more and more expensive.
I’m sorry you had to work so hard to put your kids through school. You should not have been raked over the coals to make it happen. This student loan debt issue is one that will affect our country long term, as so many people are being forced to make big, life long decisions based on their debt.
DCM: RNC: I hear you. You raise some excellent points about issues that we, as a society, need to address.
As for Student Loans….I was lucky. My father was a professor at the University of Tennessee, so got a huge break in tuition for us kids. Also, I was in University in the late 1970s, when it was possible to get a degree for a few thousand dollars. (the range in American universities today STARTS at $10,000 for a basic degree, and can go up to over ten times that for very specialized programs)
Today, though, for a variety of reasons, many of which are touched on earlier in this thread, I am continually hearing of folks who have been paying off their student loans for a decade or two…yet STILL owe as much as they originally borrowed. They made the best decision they could at the time, and still were sucked in by predatory lenders, who were allowed to loan money at usurious rates thanks to the lax regulations from the Feds (And WHICH party is continually trying to remove regulations???)
Some of the problem lies with the truly terrible economic situations that have been smacking the United states since the economic crash of 2008/2009…That crashed, caused by unbridled greed and weak regulation of the financial industry, has left our economy as fragile as a delicate, blown glass sculpture.
One other point to consider. even if every penny of the student loans still outstanding was forgiven, that is around $1.75 trillion. That seems to be a huge number…but consider this…every year, just the large corporations in America pay zero taxes thanks to $12 billion in tax breaks. Also, the previous administration gave the richest people in America a PERMANENT $1 trillion dollar tax break. Even if nothing else affected the economy, removing those two perks would pay off the entire amount in under 15 years.
However, let us look at the individuals who would receive this loan forgiveness. HOW would that affect their lives? Would they, for example, simply squirrel the money away in stocks/bonds/savings? That, after all is often what happens when the very rich get breaks like this. No, they would not. That money would simply end up doing what it is supposed to do. They would, typically spend it to support their families. They would purchase homes. They would purchase consumer goods. They would increase insurance coverage. And, perhaps, some of it would end up in savings, to act as a pad when the inevitable disasters life brings strike. A vast majority of it, though, would end up back in circulation…helping not only the forgiveness recipients, but the whole chain of vendors and service providers that they would pay. The economic impact of this would be huge…and while it would not turn the streets to gold, nor cause milk and honey to flow through them, it would cause some of the fragility of America’s economy to heal, causing it to become stronger and more robust.
In closing….while what you did was an amazing feat, and a huge sacrifice, are you happy and proud that you spent a huge chunk of your life having to work 60+ hours a week, to pay for your children’s education? Was that better than, say, working 40 hours, and having time to enjoy their growth and maturing to be adults…and learning that it is possible to have an adult relationship with them? Was it better than knowing that the huge amounts you were paying out were going into the pockets of the very rich, few, who were running the scam? These are people who would likely have you arrested if you showed up at their gated estates, hat in hand, looking for work.
I submit that life is more than just working oneself to death to make enough money to survive, and to help one’s kids…and in the process making the very rich even more obscenely wealthy. So, in the interests of treating the citizens fairly, I support loan forgiveness, and, a change in tax laws to ensure that the uber-rich end up paying a much larger chunk of the costs of having this society than they do now. “To them that much has been given; of them, much will be required”
It is my observation that, in most cases, the opinions about loan forgiveness are based not on rational consideration, but, on an emotional, knee jerk. To me, it makes no sense to saddle anyone with a debt that they may never be able to get out from under, debt they incurred because of lies, smoke and mirrors. All this does is stick generation after generation in an abusive situation, cutting down by a huge amount on the potential benefits to society that being freed of this debit would provide, and leaving them in despair. In a way, it is no different than having lunch with a friend, and squashing their idea of finding a way out of an abusive relationship because YOU did or are surviving in one. There are at least 24 countries in the world that provide free or very low cost access to higher learning...so why is it that, America, supposedly the richest country in the world, cannot do this? To me, there are no good reasons for this failure.
God Help Us All
Be Safe…wear the mask, social distance and GET VACCINATED!
Bee Man Dave