Reading through last week’s issue of The Quad, I came across no less than two articles on student debt cancellation and the DC protest on the issue. The first article by Mr. Nick Marcil pointed out that Biden owes student debtors “debt cancellation and free public higher education.” Another article by the APSCUF WCU Executive Committee called upon Joe Biden to cancel student debt as well.
I stared at the page for a minute after reading the two, confused that college-educated students don’t understand how inflation works. According to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, “Given the current state of the economy, we estimate canceling all $1.6 trillion of student debt would increase the inflation rate by between 10 and 50 basis points (0.1 to 0.5 percentage points) in the 12 months after repayment is scheduled to begin. This would represent a 4–20%increase relative to the median Federal Reserve inflation rate forecast.” In March, U.S. monthly consumer prices increased by a stunning 8.5% year-on-year. Add the cost of student debt to our economy, and is it worth it? This move would harm those already struggling: the poor, minorities, even the middle class.
On top of this, it doesn’t seem to me that these students understand how personal responsibility works since they believe that their loans being forgiven is ‘owed’ to them. According to a Brookings article, “The Sequence of Personal Responsibility,” personal responsibility is being willing “to both accept the importance of standards that society establishes for individual behavior and to make strenuous personal efforts to live by those standards.”
In addition, the article points out that the demise of personal responsibility happens when individuals blame others and their society for failing to meet standards. An example of this is when you fail to receive that A+ on a paper and blame the professor for being “too tough” of a grader. The responsible thing to do would be to accept the poor grade and aim to be better next time. What the two Quad articles fail to understand is personal responsibility. If you sign a loan, you accept the financial burden attached to it. You make a conscious decision that your education is worth the financial liability.
As Mr. Marcil presents, the protestors carried signs, one of which read that “Student Debt is Racist Sexist Unjust!” Firstly, as previously discussed, student debt is not unjust since colleges and universities need their tuition to be paid to move forward. Students agreed upon this when they signed the loan agreements. As for whether it is sexist? No, it’s not. I assume that this is put forth since 58% of the debt is owned by women. I do not believe that debt discriminates against gender. Lastly, is it racist? Once again, I believe it is not. Debt is inanimate and is agreed upon by the student to be undertaken.
Within the articles and the protest, the common theme is summarized by a sign carrier: “You owe us! Cancel our debt!” This is the action of a generation used to getting instant gratification. A temper tantrum by those who did not realize how much money they were signing away.
College is a cost-benefit analysis: you get a degree if you need a degree for your field, or you don’t get a degree if it is useless. For some reason, many high schoolers jump right into college without a second thought. Many are taught by their parents that it is the way to go and many even get a free college education paid by their parents. I cannot stress this enough: do not enter a loan that you cannot repay. It is not a just move to expect the United States to pay off your irresponsible financial decisions. It is your responsibility and no one else’s.
There are ways to avoid taking out large loans. One can apply for scholarships and financial aid. Be smart about your college choices: pick an affordable college that you know you can pay off. One can also join the National Guard or the ROTC; you will not have to pay for tuition up to a certain amount. Also, you should work during college.
These are not impossible ideas. Trust me, I know it will be hard, but please try. Your future self will thank you. For me, I’m graduating this May without any debt. I’ve done this by working hard since I was 16-years-old and saving continuously without help from my parents. Although I may sound like I think it’s easy, I know it’s not. It takes dedication and individual responsibility to be able to pay your tuition as you go. It is well worth it though: you will have little to no student debt looming over your head like a dark cloud. At the end of the day, it is your responsibility to choose the right path.
In conclusion, Mr. Marcil closes his article by stating that “this debt isn’t an individual failing but a failing on society,” and I partially agree. These insane student debts are partly due to society’s failure to educate their young on personal and financial responsibility. Why are so many college students signing atrocious loans with the expectation of being able to attain the funds needed to pay it off? It’s insane as well as sad. However, that is not to say that President Biden ”owes” student debtors loan forgiveness. That is an insane passing-off of responsibility. This situation of crippling debt is primarily the fault of the individual. Yes, you weren’t taught how to manage your finances, but you had the opportunity to research the repercussions of such an act. After all, student debt is no secret.
In short, be mindful of what you sign, and ask for assistance if you are having trouble understanding the effects of student loans. Don’t bank on a president to forgive your loans. At the end of the day, you can only rely on yourself.
Victoria Foley is a fourth-year Political Science major with a minor in Politics, Law, & Society. VF964426@wcupa.edu