As the country considers various options for helping the economy recover from the coronavirus pandemic, several lawmakers are pushing for forgiveness of student loans.
For example, Representatives Ayanna Pressley and Ilhan Omar introduced a bill in March to cancel up to $30,000 in student debt per person. Senate Democrats have pushed unsuccessfully for student debt forgiveness to be included in both the CARES Act and the HEROES Act. The group Student Debt Crisis has gathered 1.2 million signatures in support of urging Congress to forgive student loans. Bernie Sanders promised to eliminate all student debt during his presidential campaign, and Joe Biden is proposing forgiving student debt for low-income people, teachers, public service workers, and graduates of public and historically black schools.
Student debt forgiveness is now being viewed as a racial justice issue as well. “Black student borrowers borrow and default more than anyone else because of our inability to build generational wealth,” Pressley said to Yahoo Finance.
Pressley also tweeted, “Cancel rent. Cancel mortgage. Cancel student debt.”
Cancelling debt is fundamentally unfair. There are some people who make tremendous sacrifices to pay for college so that they won’t have to take out loans. Some people work throughout their time in college in order to pay tuition. Some people go without in order to save up for college, and some parents start saving for college when their child is born. Have any of the proponents of student loan forgiveness ever considered how those who saved up for college would feel upon learning that all of their sacrifices were for nothing? That they could have spent their money on other things and gotten a college education for free if they had only waited? Forgiving student loans is essentially making college free… but only for people who borrowed money. People who already paid would be stuck having already paid. A plan to cancel student loans would only be fair if anyone who paid for college got his or her money back as well.
But one also needs to consider that cancelling student loans is unfair to people who chose not to go to college, or chose to go to a less expensive college, because of the cost. Imagine having made the decision years ago to forgo college, or to go to a less prestigious college, only to learn that you could actually have gone to an expensive, prestigious college for free. Additionally, forgiving student loans is arguably unfair to people who earned merit scholarships. Imagine getting to attend college for free (or at a substantial discount) as a reward for your intelligence, talent, and academic achievements, only to find out that people without the same achievements also get to attend college for free, simply because they chose to borrow money.
Forgiving debt is unfair and unjust because it provides a benefit to some people while denying that benefit to other people who are equally deserving.