Mollette Column: Who should pay for student debt?
The average college debt among student loan borrowers in America is $32,731, according to the Federal Reserve. The majority of borrowers have between $25,000 and $50,000 outstanding in student loan debt. There is an increasing number of student loan borrowers who owe in excess of $100,000.
Some, who have spent many years in graduate schools may owe closer to $200,000.
Overall, Americans owe over $1.71 trillion in student loan debt, spread out among about 44.7 million borrowers.
Senate leader Chuck Schumer of New York, along with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and other Democrats have put forward a resolution calling on President Joe Biden to forgive $50,000 in student debt. The plan would cancel all of the debt for 80% of federal student loan borrowers.
Biden campaigned on a platform that included changes for higher education as well as relief for student loan borrowers. On Biden’s first day in office, he extended the student loan payment pause through Sept. 30.
Biden officials on Jan. 8 reiterated the president’s support for Congress to “immediately” cancel $10,000 of federal student loan debt per person as part of COVID-19 relief. That could wipe out debt completely for nearly 15 million borrowers who owe $10,000 or less, according to federal data. The majority of student loan borrowers (roughly 67%) have more than $10,000 in debt.
On Feb. 19, a group of 17 state attorneys general called on Biden to forgive $50,000 in federal student loans per borrower through executive action. The group asserted Biden has the authority to do so under the Higher Education Act.
If you have federal student loan debt, you are surely hopeful. Who wouldn’t want to have $10,000 to $50,000 of student debt eliminated? However, is this fair for the millions of Americans who spent many years working hard, repaying their loans? What about all the parents who helped their children through school? They worked hard. Do all of America’s graduates and parents receive checks – with interest? Is it fair to penalize the people who worked, scrapped and struggled? Essentially, we are asking the same hard working people who paid for their education to pay for everyone else’s education.
The majority of Americans who paid their way through school and paid off all their debt the hard way are not sympathetic to simply waving away the same college debt for others that they worked hard to pay off.
Colleges are much of the problem. For years, public universities have financially lived way beyond their means. Auburn University in Alabama recently fired head football coach Gus Malzahn and paid him $21.45 million in a contract buyout.
Students are poorly advised by high school and college counselors. You will almost never be able to pay back a $50,000 student loan working as a cashier at a fast food restaurant. College students need to look at the earning power of their degree. Professions that pay bigger salaries are worth more the college cost and debt if necessary.
Consider going to a community college your first two years. Federal Pell grants are currently $6,495 a year and may cover almost all the cost of your first two years. You typically don’t have to pay these back. Therefore, the government is already doing a lot.
If your career pursuit pays a reasonable living then consider going to a university that has a more reasonable tuition cost.
And don’t count on somebody else to pay your loan. Who knows for sure, though, maybe Biden will.