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The political push and pull of student loan debt

Shutterstock/Marie C Fields

There’s an ouch factor to this supposedly ‘feel-good’ idea

Despite his good intentions, President Biden should not forgive student loan debt. Just because an idea may be popular, or easy when compared with a legislative solution, that doesn’t make it justifiable. The tax code already does an abysmal job generating fair tax levies. Now Biden is contemplating a huge gift to many Americans, with barely a nod to correlating this largesse with need or merit.

What about the kid who skipped college to take a job to help the family make ends meet? What about students who took out loans from non-federal entities or from family members? What about students who worked nights, weekends, and summers to fund a debt-free college education?


Will a future surgeon from a well-to-do family but with a modest intern’s salary get the same benefit as a history major turned teacher?

How will today’s prospective college students plan their college financing? Should they play it safe? Or gamble with a more expensive education, banking that loan forgiveness will become a precedent that will eventually bail them out?

Student loan debt forgiveness may be a “feel-good” concept, but it’s fraught with complexities that make it extremely difficult to implement without creating arbitrary, massive inequities.

Alan Mandel


Personal responsibility should be the lesson here

How would you feel if you had sacrificed and saved to pay off your student loan debt only to find that elected officials in Washington might act to forgive most college loan debt? You might be a bit upset. You might think it’s just a way to buy votes to revive shrinking poll numbers as we inch closer to the midterms.

The hard truth is that when one takes out a loan, one knows full well that it’s borrowed money. Most lenders aren’t predatory, and the terms of the loan are fully disclosed. You’re borrowing to get a leg up on your future and promising to pay it back later, with interest.


For the millions of taxpayers who end up essentially being cosigners for these uncollateralized loans, making them foot the bill is unconscionable. Besides, we as a society should not be giving out our limited resources to those who haven’t yet learned to make their own way. Taking personal responsibility for the consequences of one’s actions is a lesson that should be learned early in life.

Scott Thompson

Bloomington, Ind.

Nice change of pace from tax cuts favoring the wealthy

Jeff Jacoby worries that forgiving student loan debt “would deepen cynicism,” but I think he has the causality backward (“Canceling student debt will make things worse,” Ideas, May 1).

I realize that forgiving student loan debt isn’t the most economically sound policy. But after a massive corporate tax cut that funded $92 billion in share buybacks in 2018 alone, I find myself sympathetic to student loan forgiveness because of my cynicism.

Forgiving student loans seems like a rare opportunity to help less-wealthy individuals rather than the usual process of helping the rich get richer.

Elliott McNamee


Don’t stick taxpayers with the bill

Jeff Jacoby’s take on tuition forgiveness is spot-on (“Canceling student debt will make things worse”). I really wish the media would stop telling everyone that “the government” is going to take care of their debts. First and foremost, it will be the taxpayers stuck with the bill. Second, why should we be tasked with taking on the responsibility of loans someone else took out?


How about if Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren paid off my debt? I’m retired and on a fixed income.

All that student loan forgiveness would produce is higher tuition fees, and higher salaries for some pampered professors.

Arvin Cook


Undergraduate debt should be the focus

Re “Forgiving student loans is a savvy move —and the right thing to do” by Renée Graham and “Canceling student debt will make things worse” by Jeff Jacoby: The issue is not forgiving student loans. It’s how to deal with undergraduate student debt.

Those who borrow for graduate school already have the advantage of having an undergraduate degree; they are likely to do better than those with no college degree. Most of those who borrow to pay for post-high school education — a bachelor’s or associate’s degree or occupational training — need to borrow if they want to have a hope of making a middle-class income in today’s labor markets.

Helping students who borrow to get more education is best targeted at those who borrow for undergraduate-level education, not those who are already college-educated.

Jane O’Neil