The Case For Forgiving Student Debt And “Free” College

I have been in favor of forgiving student debt since first hearing Jill Steintalking about the subject. To be honest, while I have been in favor of universal adult education for decades, I had not considered this possibility until I heard her speaking about it.

I get sick of hearing people calling this idea “Bernie Sanders’ idea”. No, it’s not. Fact is, this has been on the Green Party platform since 2014. Yes, the party platform. Compare to the DNC, which opposes the idea as a party. This is not something which will make it to the DNC platform any more than universal healthcare will. BTW, universal healthcare is also not “his idea”. I have been in favor of universal healthcare for decades also. Numerous countries have had universal healthcare and adult education for as long as 70 years.

If you truly support an idea, an issue, that means voting in a way that you can believe it may be acted upon because it takes more than one person to bring it to reality. When a party opposes legislation and a candidate has a history of compromise on vital issues, then talking points mean nothing at all.

No matter who may or may not bring student loan forgiveness into being, it is a very good, very effective idea which would benefit the economy to a great degree. So, let’s explore how it would help the economy and real people on the ground.

First of all, this would free up billions of dollars in a single year which is currently being paid to banks. In other words, this money is suspended from being used in the general economy. So forgiving student loans would put money back in the pockets of consumers. This is money which would nearly all be spent in the general economy. This would increase real profit margins, maintain and create jobs.

Obviously, this would generate sales tax revenue for municipalities and states. In addition, it would increase income tax revenue from workers who benefited from the jobs maintained and created.

This would not be a short term boost to the economy. A one time forgiveness of student loans would mean increased money in the general economy for years, even decades. Students who currently have large student loans with years to pay on them would instead be boosting the economy with the money currently going to banks for the entire length of the remaining time left on their loans. So this would not be a one-time-and-done deal. Nor would it be like tax breaks for the rich, which just went to increased profit margins and stock repurchases.

Student loan forgiveness would be best if coupled with universal adult education. In other words, “free” college for US citizens.

However, in each case this should come with certain limitations and exceptions to truly benefit the economy.

First, both student loan forgiveness and free adult education should have an income cap. Being reasonable, say only available to students whose family incomes are below $200,000 a year. (Income meaning from all sources.) For families with incomes above that, it would simply result in more welfare to the rich. The wealthy simply don’t even feel the cost of education like poor and middle class people do. That’s not saying they could not deduct tuition, fees, books and student loan interest on their taxes, so that amount is not taxed.

There should also be legislation placing a cap on profit percentage for adult education facilities and organizations. Something reasonable like 15% at most. No deductions allowed for executive bonuses, sports facilities and related expenses, advertising and extracurricular events/facilities/etc. This would limit the continued rise in the cost of education.

Participation in universal adult education should not be mandatory. Colleges and universities that choose to opt out should be allowed to. However, this should come at the cost of no longer receiving any federal or state funding at all. No federal research contracts, either.

For those that object to student loan forgiveness because “I paid for my college”, I challenge you here and now. Pick a college or university. If the one you attended still exists, use that one. Go to their website and look at what the current costs are to attend compared to when you attended. Be sure to include all fees. Then look up the cost of textbooks for the subject you studied. Multiply the cost per credit hour times the number of hours you completed. Do not comment until you do so. When you do reply, be sure and include how much you paid and how much the same program costs now. Then and only then, explain how you don’t understand the situation students face today. No insults, no profanity, no diversions, no exceptions.

If enacted these issues would improve the US economy, the standard of living for millions of Americans, expand availability of higher education and improve the education level of the US, which has badly fallen behind other countries.

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Cost Of Education? Get Ready For A Real Shocker.

Yesterday my teenage daughter was inducted into the National Honor Society. I’m extremely proud of her. I always have been but now it’s quantified.

After the initial induction, they had a parade of high school seniors. It was announced what college or university they would be attending, their intended major and how much they had received in scholarships. Considering the major focus of this high school is primarily arts, many of the students are going to be studying arts programs, such as theater and music.

This is where the shock comes in. A number of the students had scholarships in amounts of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Several had over $100,000 in scholarships. For theater arts programs. One had a scholarship of $700,000. That is not a typo. Seven hundred thousand dollars.

One student will be attending medical school. His scholarship? $193,000. So the theater students had scholarships far surpassing the medical school student.

In total, roughly 30 students had a grand total in scholarships of over $4 MILLION.

In no way am I dismissing the accomplishments of these students. They worked hard and earned their scholarships. The deserve the reward and recognition they will be receiving.

The point I am making is that this is now the cost of education. Over $4 million for 30 students. How did we get to this point in this country? How did education become this expensive?

Consider the students who may be bright and talented but were unable to gain a scholarship. How many of them are there in just this one high school? How much will the other hundreds of students be paying for years, decades, their entire lives to acquire an adult education? How many will not see any real benefit to that education yet still have that debt?

Consider the fact that a scholarship is not intended to cover all the costs of an education. It is only intended to defray some level of that expense. So even the students with scholarships in many cases will incur debt along the way.

How many students give up all hope of further education? Disheartened by the cost, the very idea of a lifetime of debt? How many have seen parents paying student loans for the length of the child’s life? Many people today retire with student loans they still must pay for years into retirement.

Did you know if you marry someone with federal student loan debt that if they die you are liable for the remainder of that debt? Did you know if you become disabled there is still no way to discharge that debt without paying it in full?

Adult education really should not be a for-profit endeavor. Yet it is. Corporations make profits from the lifetime of work we exert but that’s not enough. They have to make profits from the education we are required to have to do that work.

Even that is not enough for corporations. Corporate owned charter schools are making profits from children’s basic education while often doing that extremely poorly. Probably so they can charge more for remedial adult classes. Meanwhile, the pay for teachers remains stagnant or decreasing, benefits stripped away as time goes on.

This is why so many of us are pushing for socialized adult education. This is why countries that have socialized education are passing us by at light speed.

We pay the price in many ways besides the obvious. Our entire economy suffers because money spent paying student loans is not spent to support the economy. We pay in terms of stress and depression which diminishes productivity and creativity. We pay in terms of medications to alleviate the stress and depression. We pay if we fall behind on student loans (or heaven forbid we default on a federal student loan). This impacts our credit score, which can affect our ability to be hired for the best jobs. The stress may affect our relationships and our health. Paying the debt may take time away from our families, leading to more stress and depression. That stress and depression can cross generations as it affects the time and quality of our relationships with our children.

And it’s getting worse by the day.

So, let me hear more of you corporate puppets say, “Just get an education!” One more time.