An Incomplete – With A Lot Of Merit

Today’s topic deserves at least an essay if not a book. I haven’t written an essay in several years (the old ones were all lost in one of the hacks) and my book projects (yes, they exist) aren’t exactly moving at warp speed. Therefore, you have today’s title and format. The topic? It’s student debt relief that I do not feel can be discussed without touching on the larger topic of public education. Hence, the article’s title.

There is no simple answer to student debt relief or public education. The reality is that for many lacking a post high school education is simply insufficient in today’s American economy. It’s also very expensive and there are too many snake oil salesmen out there.

We have a two phase issue: the students that are all ready in post high school institutions and those who have either graduated from them or sadly much too often dropped out of them. In almost all cases they owe money because of the student loans they took out. The other phase is the people who will soon be faced with the decision of whether and if so where to go to school; and then how to pay for it. Let’s take the latter first.

I am in favor of free public post high school education, up to a bachelor’s degree, with some restrictions much like we do with high school. I would restrict free education to state schools in the student’s home state with the exception of allowing them to go to an out of state state school if their home state did not offer the program they wanted. That is an extremely rare occurrence. The other restriction would be that they were making progress toward a degree. For a variety of legitimate reasons many students are unable to graduate in four years and there would have to be a provision for changes of majors but I’m not going to pay for 40-year-old college freshmen majoring in eyeing incoming freshman co-eds.

If you want to attend a private school you pay for it privately. There are many exceptional private schools (and many more that are less than fine) but I’m not spending my tax dollars to send you there. I can only imagine the behind the scenes lobbying against this provision the private and scam schools would put forth.

I certainly am not going to waste taxpayer dollars supporting the scam, worthless or nearly worthless for-profit schools out there. I’m also not going to support indoctrination centers, we already do too much of that with many (not all) charter schools (at the sub college level) and via programs for veterans. You want to indoctrinate your kids; do it on your dime not mine!

As to those with current student loans, like most problems fixing them proves more difficult than preventing them in the first place. In principle I’m in favor of some sort of means testing. I hate to excuse the debt of a student who didn’t need the loan in the first place. Means testing is always a challenge and in this case, it is particularly so. Going on income alone is insufficient. Which year’s income? Last year? What if you aren’t making that kind of money now for any one of a variety of legitimate reasons? What about recognition of public service in a lesser paying job, (i.e. teaching in a hard core area)? Where do we draw the line on public service? Is teaching a public service but being a nurse or a police officer is not?

What about a blanket amnesty/forgiveness? I can stomach paying you back for your time at a Harvard or Howard one time but I certainly don’t want to pay for your time at a plethora of other privates that shouldn’t even be in business. Even trickier are the cases of those who did not graduate. There are a multitude of legitimate reasons to drop out. Bad things do happen to good people. At the same time, I don’t want to bail you out if you spent more time drinking than reading. Part of being an adult is paying for your mistakes; you are less likely to repeat them.

The Biden administration is supposed to unveil a student debt forgiveness program in the very near future. These are some of the factors they will be considering in the formulation of it.

I have purposely chosen not to get into the political expediencies (some might contend political necessities) of it or the economic reasons and impacts. That is  why I graded myself as an incomplete on this “assignment” but you have to admit my comments have a lot of merit.

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