A year after graduating from college, I was able to pay off my student loans in full. Now, President Biden wants me to pay for my peers who have yet to do the same.
Biden’s platform includes “student loan forgiveness” of at least $10,000 per person. Meanwhile, Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren and Chuck Schumer have proposed $50,000 in debt forgiveness per individual. On its surface, this sounds generous. American student loan debt is nearing $1.6 trillion, and the cost of college is higher than ever. But what does this “forgiveness” entail on a moral level?
Loans are not “forgiven” or magically disappeared. They are paid off by taxpayers. Whether it is through higher taxes, printing more money, or contributing directly from the national debt, you and I will end up being the ones that pay for it. The United States is already over $27 trillion in debt and $125 trillion deep in unfunded liabilities.
Essentially, the debt burden is shifted off of the shoulders of those who signed the loans and on to everyone who pays federal taxes. If you’re like me, that’s fundamentally unfair.
Paying off my student loans was a concerted effort that took sacrifice. I started working after graduating from SUNY Albany in 2018. Following Dave Ramsey’s financial plan, I cut my living expenses, took on a side gig, and threw all that I could at my $27,000 in student loans.
I cooked my own meals and bought the most affordable groceries. Although I could afford an apartment, I chose to live in subsidized company housing one-and-a-half hours away from my workplace. Commuting for 15 hours a week was part of the price I paid to square my debt sooner.
I packed lunch most days, even when I had to wake up early to do so. It saved money at the cost of the convenience of eating out. Some nights after work I stayed up late to do freelance translation work instead of enjoying leisure time. I gave up a lot to accomplish what I did, but debt “forgiveness” would punish taxpayers like me for our hard work and frugality—just so others don’t have to take responsibility for their own choices.
Rather than stopping at saying that student loan forgiveness is unfair (it is), or that we can’t afford it (we can’t), we should take a deeper look at the root of the debate surrounding student loans. The student loan forgiveness camp is operating from the assumption that people are entitled to a college education and other peoples’ hard work. It codifies in policy the idea that adults are not responsible for their own actions (i.e. taking on debt). In a free society, I am not entitled to a college education and neither is anyone else.
Taking out a loan is a choice, and personal responsibility shouldn’t be supplanted by taxpayer bailouts. “Canceling” student loans means penalizing people like me for honoring my word and repaying the debt I chose to accept.