After graduating with my bachelor’s degree in 2018, I decided to settle my student loans as quickly as possible. Through hard work and sacrifice, I managed to become debt-free within a year. Student loan forgiveness is not only unfair to the majority of Americans without student loan debt but is also dishonest and costly.
President Joe Biden made headlines recently by calling for student loan forgiveness. Progressives like U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren were quick to urge him to do this before the upcoming midterm elections. While there are different proposals on the table as to how much of America’s $1.75 trillion in student loan debt ($1.6 trillion of which are federal student loans) should be “forgiven,” the slogan “student loan forgiveness” is itself dishonest.
I wanted to be free from debt. I wanted to have the margin to save, build wealth, and enjoy my life. To tackle my $27,000 in student loans after landing my first post-college job, I embraced Dave Ramsey’s financial plan and decided to do everything within my power to pay off my debt as quickly as possible. Although I was not making a huge salary, I cut costs by living in company housing, commuting 15 hours a week to work, staying up late doing freelance work, and forgoing opportunities to spend money recreationally.
I did what many other Millennials would not dream of: I shopped for the cheapest groceries, cooked my own meals, and brewed my own coffee to save money. Eleven months of forgoing wants and delaying pleasure were worth it when, after putting over half my gross income toward debt, I paid off my student loans. But what was the point of all that hard work if others who did not make the same choices as me have their loans forgiven by Washington anyway?
Student loan forgiveness would not only be unfair to people like me. Those who did not go to college, those who worked their way through school, parents who saved for their children’s education, and those who served our country and earned the GI Bill would also get the short end of the stick. The absurdity of this is even greater when you realize that these same people would be footing the bill for these bailouts.
The federal government, through the Federal Student Loan Program, made those loans with taxpayer money as collateral. The cost has to be borne somehow, whether it be through higher taxes, printing more dollars (inflation), or increasing the national debt (which eventually requires future taxation and/or inflation). “Bailouts” are a more honest way to describe this policy because they do not skirt the metaphysical reality that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Every action has a cost. Such bailouts would be a massive redistribution of wealth that, according to research from the Brookings Institute, would disproportionally benefit the wealthy.
Why should a plumber or a truck driver foot the bill for high-income earning college graduates like doctors and lawyers?
Even if all $1.6 trillion of America’s federal student loan debt was wiped clear, it would not address the underlying problems with the current system. In fact, it would make future generations worse off.
No advocates for student loan forgiveness are being intellectually honest unless they seek to rectify the root of the problem: the Federal Student Loan Program itself. It has allowed universities to jack up the price of tuition and gives loans to students indiscriminately, even if they go to an overpriced university to earn a degree with prospects for a negative return on investment. Bailing out student loans without ending the federal student loan program is dishonest and will create a permanent new entitlement. Future generations would not only be saddled with a higher tax burden but they will face the same skyrocketing costs of tuition if the federal student loan program is not abolished.
America cannot afford the societal, moral, and financial costs of student loan forgiveness. It would further harm the economy by spurring inflation and higher taxes. It will not solve the source of the problem and further diminish people’s sense of self-responsibility. The unfairness to those who do not have student loans and the injustice of wealth redistribution will further polarize our already divided nation.