Student debt forgiveness: Pros and cons

A student debt relief program was recently announced which would give $10,000 – $20,000 towards college loans to students that are Pell Grant eligible. 

This program would help those who make under $100,000 a year, which would be those who need it the most. Lawyers and doctors have a much higher earning potential than teachers or librarians.   

When I was in high school, we were told by almost every teacher that we had to go to college and get a four-year degree regardless of what field we wanted to go into, that without a bachelor’s degree skilled trades would not provide us with a living and those statement set me up for a lifetime of debt  especially when compared to the ’70s when a student could attend school for one year at an in-state public university for about $400. 

In 2021 that cost is about $11,000 according to education data.org, which is an increase of about 2,600%.  

Lawyers and doctors were able to work throughout the pandemic while people with other trades spent large portions of the pandemic unable to work, or they worked reduced hours which further adds to debt problems.  

Helping lower-income families pay for school could even help the economy by allowing money that would be spent on interest and principal to go back into the economy through other purchases. 

The debt forgiveness will also help get the debt paid off faster because it will reduce the principal that is owed, reducing how much and how fast interest accrues. 

Helping lower people with lower incomes helps the economy by putting money back in to the pockets of those who need it. Like the stimulus check we received during the worst of the pandemic. That money didn’t help the rich in an upfront way but that money was used to buy groceries or pay other bills. 

Student debt is a widespread problem throughout the United States. Each year, there are millions of students enrolled at colleges and universities across the country. Most students are unable to afford college out-of-pocket which leads to large amounts of debt.

Many students can obtain grants and/or scholarships and some get support from their parents, but many are forced to take out some sort of student loan. 

The debt forgiveness program may be helpful to some, however, is it an ethical and logical move by the federal government?   

Is it fair?  This program is objectively unfair to anyone who has not attended college as well as anyone who is planning to attend college in the future. These people will not benefit from the program even if they need the money, and it’s also unfair to exclude anyone making over $125,000 per year. They should be able to make the payment now, but they may have needed to make sacrifices to pay back debt earlier in their life. 

It is also unfair to anyone who has already paid back their debt. Pell grant recipients can get double what anyone else can which is another factor of unfairness. These students do tend to come from less fortunate families, but they have already received a large grant of money to greatly reduce the amount that had to be borrowed.   

Debt forgiveness has non-monetary costs. If debt for student loans were to be forgiven, it supports financial irresponsibility. Nobody is going to pay your credit card bill or your mortgage. The federal government has racked up trillions in debt over the years, so do not ask them for financial advice. 

On a more serious note, there is a benefit to borrowers learning the true cost of college. If there is one thing to be learned from college, it is that debt does not pay itself.