President Joe Biden recently announced a plan to cancel up to $10,000 student loan debt for any borrowers with less than $125,000 in individual income or $250,000 for married couples. To many, this idea is very popular, especially for those on a college campus. But by exploring the purpose of college and the mindset behind it, I find that such debt relief is unnecessary and is not a logical plan for the president and his administration.
Attending college is fundamentally a choice that a student must make. There is no requirement to go to college; rather, it is a strategic choice that one makes in order to improve their future. People may feel social pressure to attend college, but in reality there are other alternatives, such as trade school. Trade school costs only 25% of what it does to obtain a bachelor’s degree, and those who finish trade school receive $35,000 as their average starting salary. If a person decides to go to college, in doing so they recognize that its benefits outweigh the costs. For many students these costs result in student loans. By attending college and taking out student loans, it should be understood that furthering their education enables a person to boost their potential income enough to outweigh the loans they are taking out. At the end of the day, college is an investment. If that investment does not result in enough income to cover the initial cost, then going to college isn’t a decision someone should make. Society should not push people into college without helping them to realize all of their options and the true cost of attending. Someone attending a private university that costs $80,000 a year should only do so knowing that, by attending this specific school, they can graduate with a degree, skill set, experiences and so forth that are necessary to get them a job that allows them to repay any loans they take. People should consider the competitiveness of the job market, the potential starting salary associated with their degree and other factors before taking out a loan. No one is forced to take out excessive student loans, and there are ways to reduce the cost of college (community colleges, for example). Moreover, there are plenty of career alternatives that do not involve going to college, and people can choose not to attend. This by no means is to say that college should be limited to people whose family have a certain income, as the purpose of student loans is to ensure college can be accessed by everyone; rather, I am arguing that college is a personal choice with personal costs and benefits that should not fall onto the government and taxpayers at large.
While the logic behind going to college should be enough to indicate that student loan debt relief is completely unnecessary, it’s also important to recognize that such debt relief doesn’t even help the entire population. According to the National Center for Education Statistics 40% of 18 to 24 year olds in 2020 were enrolled in college, a number that has remained fairly constant from 2010 to 2020. Clearly not every American goes to college, and of those that go to college there are affordable options such as community colleges and public universities. US News reports that tuition and fees for a private college in 2022-2023 is roughly $40,000, while an instate public university is roughly $10,000. The Education Data Initiative reports that community college is even cheaper, costing less than $4,000 a year on average for tuition and fees (for full time, in-district students). The only people this bill is helping are those that chose to go to a college that would require them to take out loans, and as has been mentioned, there are options that allow for students to dramatically reduce the loans they take out. These people chose to take out a loan and agreed to pay it back in doing so.
As a college student, I would love a free $10,000 more than anybody, but this plan is simply unnecessary. But at the end of the day, this is an excessive amount of money being spent on something that won’t even help all Americans. Instead, it can be used to improve our public education system or reduce the country’s $30 trillion national debt. This country already acts fiscally irresponsible and spends more money than it should, and it has accumulated so much debt that the government pays roughly $400 billion every year in interest. That’s $400 billion wasted because of a government incapable of passing a balanced budget. So why should we spend even more money on something that is completely unnecessary?