Student record

Ross: Should Biden write off student loan debt?

Full disclosure, I’m a baby boomer who graduated debt-free back when middle-class parents could afford tuition, and when I worked at a radio station and wrote a newspaper column – based on my creative writing class homework – could pay for room and board.

So I’m not going to scold the millennials who are buried in debt. I don’t think anyone is borrowing for college just to rip off the government because there are easier ways to rip off the government than four years of homework and Powerpoint lectures.

However, there is evidence that some colleges have started scamming students to take advantage of the federal student loan program.

Once upon a time, it was so bad that the Department of Education had to disqualify colleges that practiced predatory recruiting, had high default rates, or delivered all of their courses online.

But in 2018, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos scrapped those regulations — something about the government not having to regulate the free market — and soon more students were graduating into jobs that could never repay their loans.

The Brookings Institution found that although for-profit colleges only enroll 10% of students, they accounted for HALF of all student loan defaults.

So here we are with millions of students who have borrowed money to learn things that no employer wants to pay for. And who, we are told, are angry enough to ditch the Democrats in November unless Biden cancels a significant amount of their debt.

But here’s the thing: It turns out that much of that debt is also owed by wealthy families whose children have decided to spend a lot of money on traditional colleges and higher education. And given that Democrats are all about social justice, forgiving that would look pretty bad. At the same time, you have Republicans warning that global debt cancellation would increase inflation.

Biden therefore appears to be considering forgiving around $10,000 — enough to make a big difference for poor families, but likely far too low to excite the young, middle-class voters Democrats will need in November.

I have two thoughts on this.

Young voters already have a pretty miserable electoral record. Even in high-turnout states like ours, about half still don’t vote. So for young, indebted voters, showing their anger by boycotting the November election wouldn’t surprise me at all.

Which brings me to my second thought.

If a Biden administration with a Democratic Congress struggles to cancel student debt – how much do you think student debt will be canceled once Republicans lead that Congress?

Hint – you don’t need a college degree to figure this one out.

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