In contemporary America, students take out crippling student loans with the assumption that the prospects afforded by college will solve any future financial woes.
That line of thinking, spoon-fed to all kids one way or another, has proven to not match reality.
Not only is the current student loan system unnecessarily costly, but it is also arcane and difficult to navigate. This makes it difficult for any parent or incoming student to understand what they should be doing to prepare.
This is why it is good to see the Biden administration and many within the Democratic Party talking about student debt forgiveness.
Student debt forgiveness is an ideal policy. It would help millions of Americans, no matter the background, while simultaneously aiding in closing the racial wealth gap.
Biden has advocated for forgiving up to $10,000 of debt, but other members of Congress, such as Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, have tried to push that number up to $50,000.
However, neither of these proposals are enough. It is better for the government to forgive as much as it is able.
Most do not have the insanely high levels of debt that are often the subject of the biggest headlines, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile to help those who do.
It is impossible to deny there is an element of unfairness in focusing on those with higher levels of debt. For instance, if you have a high level of debt but a degree in Chemical Engineering, then you are less affected by your high level of debt than an English major would with less debt because of the difference in earning potential.
However, trying to wipe the student debt slate clean as much as possible should be the goal of any kind of debt forgiveness policy. We can and should be trying to help as many people as possible, not being needlessly petty.
Far too often when it comes to policies that are seeking to help people, we spend too much time talking about who deserves it and who doesn’t.
We should be trying to close this horrible economic chapter in countless people’s lives. We should help them be at a place where they can jump-start their lives, rather than living in financial stasis or worse.
Additionally, we cannot look at debt forgiveness as the single policy solution to this issue. If the government doesn’t act to change the systematic problems with how higher education is funded and structured, then within a few decades we will be back at the table, debating if we need to forgive the debt of another generation.
It won’t be easy to find solutions to these problems, but the difficulty should not get in the way of fixing this broken status quo.
Now more than ever is the time to think big and to do what is right.
Overzealous forgiveness is far less costly in the long term than going smaller in a vain attempt to not annoy political moderates.
When it comes to issues like this, the government can show millions of Americans that it is not just some distant force of ever quibbling politicians, but a practical agent of positive change in people’s lives.