Why Forgive Student Loans?

Why Forgive Student Loans?


Leonard Zwelling

I was having a conversation with a good friend who asked me what I thought about forgiving outstanding student loan debt. A brief perusal of the internet puts that debt at close to $2 trillion.

My answer was quite simple. Why would we do that?

I had a student loan and had to start paying it back during medical school when I had no money. The State of New York didn’t care. It wanted the payment. I made it. I had borrowed it. It was my problem.

You will have to forgive me, but I don’t understand the concept of debt forgiveness unless it is between family members or allied countries. If a person incurred debt to go to college or graduate school, that person has to pay the money back. Where’s the two sides of this one? It’s beyond me.

Now I could go for paying off a student loan debt obligation with public service in the military, public health service or teaching in low-income communities. But forgiveness, why?

What message does loan forgiveness send to the students who owe money let alone to the millions who have already paid back their debt without the aid of government loan forgiveness?

Besides, if you want to identify the culprits in the current student debt crisis it has to be the two prime forces—the government that underwrites most of these loans and makes too much money available to people who will never be able to pay it back, and the colleges and universities who continually up their tuition and fees knowing that this will force the students to borrow the money that the institutions then use to build buildings, hire professors, and promote the basketball team let alone pay the coaches more than the university president. And is the investment even worth it? My guess is that sometimes it is in that graduates do earn more, but so many put themselves behind the eight ball financially before their careers have even launched and what about the student loan receivers who don’t graduate? They have the debt without the bankable diploma.

And then there is the effect of the selections people make with regard to careers after incurring all this debt. You want to know why you can’t find a family practitioner? It’s because that indebted medical student opted for dermatology because it is both more lucrative and has better hours. Remember half of all medical students are women now and most women want to start the families they have put off starting to finish school and training. They will choose specialties with two critical characteristics—high pay and good hours. The debt only amplifies the crisis in primary care medicine.

If the government really wants to loan out this money, then it must begin to hold the institutions of higher learning responsible for how they raise their tuition and what they do with the money because the government is subsidizing private universities and should have some regulatory oversight of what the universities are doing with the money.

I can see no justification for forgiving student loans. My belief system, up bringing, and training taught me to honor my debts. Everything about student loan forgiveness sends the wrong message. That the universities need more oversight of their tuition and fee charges and their expenditures of this money is another matter entirely, but the profligate spending by these institutions is what is feeding the borrowing frenzy and the debt crisis. It’s time for higher education to be held accountable to someone or the colleges and universities will simply drive up their tuitions every time they want to build another building. That’s not right.

In theory student loans got many people educations that they might not have otherwise obtained. However, the debt does come due and should be paid even if it takes twenty years.

You took the money. Now pay it back. Debt forgiveness is some kind of left-wing fantasy. Maybe it will work in Fantasy Land. It can’t work in the United States.

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