Should student debt be forgiven?

This is an guest post opinion piece offered by A. Klung on whether or not the #forgivestudentdebt movement has a rational argument.

I am sure there are a lot of people out there that are not only going to disagree with my opinion regarding forgiving student loan debt, but will probably hate me.  All I can say is much like the debt you have accrued…deal with it. 

 

Do I think the student loan interest rates are ridiculous?  Yes.  Do I think the legislation and policies regarding student loan interest rates should be changed?  Yes. 

 

But that doesn’t mean that I think this debt should be forgiven.

 

I read the FAQ portion of their site

 

(http://www.forgivestudentloandebt.com/content/frequently-asked-questions-faqs)     

 

I found it to be slanted.  As if, unsurprisingly, written by someone who is saddled with gross student debt – with unfair interest rates…and tunnel vision.  Perhaps by someone that was raised to believe that if they pursued higher education for 4/6/8 years, they would emerge a hot commodity.  Sorry, but that recipe is no longer being cooked up in the kitchen man. 

 

Why not forgive the people that got caught with their pants down holding balloon mortgages during the housing crisis?  Shouldn’t they have been forgiven and given their homes back?

 

All I know, is that my set of life decisions would have been vastly different if I had the option of choosing to wrack up, in some cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars of school debt to only have it ‘forgiven’ down the road.  I would have totally jumped on that band wagon.  Instead, I didn’t.  What I did was realize that school was going to take a lot of time and money me and my family did not have.   I did the responsible thing and worked my ass off for the past 20 years.  Did I want to do that?  No.  But I also didn’t want to be in debt. 

 

To this day, I have friends that are ‘professional students’.  They have yet to work a real job.  They are content creating a schedule so they only have afternoon classes three days a week.  Amazingly, they find the money at spring break to go to Cancun or Miami…but once all is said and done, they want to be forgiven. 

 

I realize this is not everyone, but it does seem to reflect everyone I personally know.  And if that isn’t the exact case, there is the other side. People like my friends daughter who after 7 years of waffling around in school, and finally receiving a Masters has been unemployed for 2 years.  Not because she couldn’t get a job, but because she can’t seem to get a job that pays her what she thinks she deserves to be paid.  She wants $50 an hour, and has turned down jobs paying $35-$38 per hour.  Seriously?

 

I am sorry that the recipe for the American Dream is no longer realistic.  4 years in college ¹ success.  Nor does it give said students the right to feel society is beholden to forgiving their debt.  Sometimes graduates have been brainwashed into thinking they deserve and are better than someone that does not pursue or have the opportunity to pursue a higher education.

 

Why is it not instilled in our youth that there is nothing wrong with not going to college/university? That there are plenty of respectable jobs available that do not require one going into debt with insane interest rates. 

 

Is it not fucked up that despite there being clear, albeit fine, print regarding the stacked interest rates that once the party, otherwise known as college, is over and reality hits this all of the sudden becomes someone else’s problem?

 

Make no mistake.  This is not me being concerned with what my taxes are paying for.  I could give a shit about that.  My concern is these young adults, who already feel entitled and feel they deserve more in life because they have drunken the kool aid ,are continuing to not live in reality.  They need to accept their situation and  learn the understanding of responsibility. 

 

In a perfect world, I would make suggestions where perhaps their student debt would be forgiven if they served their country/community via military, peace corps, volunteer jobs, teaching, etc.  That will never happen.  Legislation like that would simply never pass.  More importantly, the young adults would not want to do it.  Do you know why I make that statement?  Because programs like this already exist, but they once again, feel that they deserve better than to take advantage of things like the GI Bill (http://www.military.com/education/gi-bill) or Student Loan Deferment via the Peace Corps (http://www.peacecorps.gov/volunteer/learn/whyvol/finben/).  Probably because both of the above mentioned choices require actual hard work, and not a hand out immediately following college.  And when I say handout, I am not referring to loan forgiveness…I am referring to the aforementioned entitlement.  Why should I go work in a village in Burkina Faso for 2 years for free when I should be clocking bonuses at a hedge fund? 

 

My humble, and perhaps foolish advice, is that these young adults harness their movement/energy and shift their focus from debt forgiveness to  adjusting policy on the ridiculous student loan interest rates and possibly interest rate forgiveness. 

 

Perhaps, though, there should be a start at home.  Parents can assist in preparing their children for the changing economic landscape of America.  They can start by educating their children regarding life decisions and what is an evolving recipe for the American Dream.

A.Klung

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