Should Student Loans Be Forgiven?

If there ever was a hot-button topic recently in political debates, it is student loan forgiveness. Some Democratic candidates are riding high on the idea of sweeping forgiveness for loans. There are a lot of ways to slice it, fund it, and sell it to the public. But would student loan forgiveness really be doing the right thing?

Here’s the thing about student loans: they are ultimately the borrower’s responsibility. I know there might be some that read this that will strongly disagree. There are outlying cases. Perhaps you really were the victim of predatory lending. Perhaps you were promised one thing and then delivered another. I get that, and I sympathize with those situations. But right now, I am speaking to the average, everyday borrower.

When I graduated from Azusa Pacific University back in 2014 with $25,000 in student loans, I wasn’t looking around for someone else to pay those off. It was my responsibility. I had gotten a good education, my market value had risen because of it. That debt included two study abroad semesters, great learning in the classroom, and an experience that I would not trade for anything. But I was the one that signed for those loans. I was responsible.

Fast forward a couple of years, and I finally – by the grace of God – was able to free myself from those undergrad loans. It took a long time, and it wasn’t fun. Every time I made a $1,000 payment, I cringed at the thought of what I could have done instead with that money. But the fun had been had, the education had been provided, and it was time to pay the piper. And that’s what I did.

2017 rolled around and I found myself newly married to the most amazing woman in the world. During our courting, we had discussed in depth the prospect of graduate school for her. It was going to be expensive, there was no doubt about it. We may have picked one of the most expensive options in the list of schools she was interested in. But we went in with eyes wide open that the final debt bill would be well over $70,000. She signed up for those loans with expectations no lower than “we will pay these off.”

That graduate school loan balance is now down to $55,000. We both make decent money, but we don’t spend a bunch of it. More than half of my most recent paycheck went straight to student loans. Her paycheck was just deposited yesterday. Today we will pull out taxes and tithe, and the remainder will go straight to loans. It is gut-wrenching, and it sucks. It’s not fun. I don’t like it, she doesn’t like it. But we chose it. We knew what we were getting into and taking on. And we will pay back those loans.

There are massive problems with the current lending system for higher education. Lending is careless. Prospective students are not properly evaluated for their ability to pay back loans. Going to be a social worker? Excellent! The world needs those! But taking out $100,000 in loans to become one? That is irresponsible both on the side of the borrower, and it is borderline predatory on the lender side. Did this future social worker have other options? Probably. There are community colleges everywhere. They could have stayed in-state to lower their tuition price tag. They could have lived at home for a while during school. There are always options.

I do need to take a moment and say that Capitalism is really ugly when certain light is shed on it. Student lending is one of these places. Colleges and Universities have jacked up the prices to match the reckless lending that goes on by both public and private lenders. They are simply getting top dollar out of the system that is in place. Lending needs to be reigned in and regulated to some extent. It is out of control and is in most cases somewhat if not totally predatory. Those who lend money to those they know can’t afford to pay it back should have a nice long look in the mirror and ask themselves if they are loving their neighbor as themselves.

Whew, off the soapbox now. What would student loan forgiveness teach people? It would not teach reality, that is for sure. When do you ever get to spend money and not pay it back? Never. Unless you go delinquent on payments, wreck your credit score, or worse, file for bankruptcy.

It makes me sad that people have recently pressured their idols or role models into paying off their student loans. Being rich does not mean that these people owe anything to anyone else. I am all about equality whenever it is possible. But blaming the rich and asking them to pay debts that we have incurred is pretty ridiculous.

This post may not make you very happy. But just keep in mind that if you are a borrower buried under student loans and other debt, I am quite literally right there with you. Is it hard? Yes. Do I wish someone would wave a wand and wipe away our remaining balance? Some days. But I also believe in taking responsibility and paying off every dollar that you borrow.

If you find yourself hoping that the federal government will bail you out of your situation, I would encourage you not to. You would be better off working on getting out of debt now instead of waiting for the next President to arrive in office. Politicians promise the world to get to the Oval Office. I have yet to see one that has fully delivered.

To leave a heavy subject on a more positive note: you can do this. I can do this. We can work hard, make better choices, and dedicate ourselves to adjusting our lifestyles in order to achieve a goal. I am excited for the day when Jos and I can say “we are debt-free!” I hope you would join us in that endeavor.

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