The average college graduate owes close to $30,000 in student loan debt. At the time of writing this article, nationally, college graduates owe $1.6 trillion in federal student loans. Every second, this number increases alongside our country’s national debt ($22.5 trillion.)
In their campaigns for the 2020 Democratic party’s nomination, many of the candidates have proposed massive student loan forgiveness plans. Primarily, these plans are aimed at simply negating the debts collected by individuals. Specific demographics of people that are targeted by these policies would qualify to have specific amounts of their student loans negated by the federal government. This is not the “get out of debt free card” that many people in the media like to portray it as. In fact, these policies are incredibly reckless and encourage a culture of poor decision making.
First and foremost, these policies would involve the federal government spending considerable amounts of additional money — that it does not have — to combat the symptoms of a problem and not the problem itself. There is a direct correlation between the amount of money the federal government spends on higher education and the amount that the cost by which a college education increases. Government spending on higher education has never been higher, with $2,000 being spent per student annually (adjusted for inflation) since the early 2000’s, the amount it costs to attend institutions of higher learning continues to increase. The more the government tries to undercut tuition costs, the more universities can artificially raise them.
These policies will breed dependence on the state as people will come to rely upon the government to bail them out of any poor decision they make. Furthermore, no one told them to attend a four-year university. For instance, why not attend trade school and learn a technical vocation? Individuals that choose to pursue vocational training have skills that are always going to be in demand, careers that reliably make a good living, and don’t experience the accompanying existential dread of student debt that too often comes with a college degree.
If our goal is to make college more affordable and more accessible for all Americans, we should acknowledge the fact that higher education is an industry, and just like any other industry when the federal government meddles in it, it tends to lessen the quality of the product. As participants in higher education, we must hold our institutions more accountable for how tuition money is spent and encourage legislators to look at combatting the causes of soaring costs instead of just wiping the slate clean every time it gets dirty.
We need to find effective solutions to this problem that addresses why education costs continue to rapidly rise. It’s a fool’s errand to put our faith in politicians that promise us goodies in exchange for power.