There is a debate in the U.S. about whether the president should forgive all or some student loan debt.
Whether the president can legally do so without congressional consent is a valid question. However, even with that consent, should the government write off all or part of the debt at all? Why should the government subsidize and guarantee so much of that debt? By doing so is the government contributing to the increasing cost of tuition and other college expenses?
The cost of tuition has exploded in the past decade. One of the reasons is that there is a ready supply of students and government backed money to pay both private and public colleges and universities. Many jobs do not require a college degree, and we should be encouraging students to go to technical schools. That is a valid alternative to attending college and a technical career may be the best bet for some to obtain that good life.
Not everyone is meant to be an electrician, welder, or cook. For some, their best route to a good life is through college. Those that do go on to take classes should not be burdened with crushing debt upon graduation. They shouldn’t be middle aged by the time they finish paying their student loan loans.
Yet we have a debate about forgiveness when instead we should be debating how to educate students more efficiently.
It is now universally accepted that all kids should complete high school. Public high schools are open to all, and we track graduation rates. That is a rather recent development. None of my grandparents went to high school at all. It was only about a hundred years ago that it became acceptable for all kids to at least attend a couple of years of high school before going to work.
Now it is time for the government look at community colleges as necessary for preparing young adults to have productive careers. Classes should be free and part of what is offered to all. This includes technical training. The government is now subsidizing private technical schools through loan guarantees where many students borrow thousands of dollars and never graduate or earn a certificate.
If university-bound students were able to attend college classes and live at home for the first couple of years, their debt load would decrease. The government would need to mandate that the credits earned at a community college be accepted by a traditional university for their students to qualify for government backed loans.
Community colleges can offer training and certificate programs for the trades. It makes much more sense for high school graduates and adults to attend and learn from accredited professionals in community colleges than the government paying for students to go to private schools. It has been proven cost-effective to learn a trade or skill in these public institutions.
The government cannot forgive past debt if they do not implement a program such as this. Forgiveness alone does not get to the heart of the problem. There will be always be new students looking for a better life through post-secondary education. If we keep the old system without any reform, then we are immediately in the same position with new students accumulating new debt.
We continue to think as if 1960 was still here. It isn’t! We are in the third decade of the 21st century and yet we still approach things through the eyes of the past. It is time that we accept that post-secondary education of some sort is a necessity and not alone for the rich. It is a key for all of us to improve individually and as a society.