Student Loan Forgiveness

I never had a student loan. I think my mother would have fallen over dead at the thought of ANY kind of college loan. Instead – I knew as a high school student my mother had put every money gift I had ever received into a separate savings account. When it came time to apply to a college or two – that 17 years of savings was the determinator. Not me.

I wanted to get as far away from home (and Boston) as humanly possible. My dream school was UCLA. Northwestern a close second. I wanted to major in journalism or communications or TV production. Maybe all of them. And also get discovered by some talent agent. Maybe sitting – Lana Turner-like – at some coffee shop counter. It didn’t matter that I wore thick glasses and couldn’t sing, dance or act. Or had seen too many old Hollywood films.

And then my mother told me how much money was in the cookie jar – so to speak. Enough for Boston University tuition if I lived at home. Or Syracuse University in upstate New York. If I lived with my irascible aunt and her stamp-collecting husband. Either way, I would have to keep working to pay for my books, transit fares and lunches. Despite my inflated opinion of myself – I didn’t qualify for an educational scholarship to a top tier school. And that was the only kind of non-loan financial help available then.

Dreams. Dashed.

So I sucked it up and went to Boston University. Since I already knew my way around the broadcast world in Boston and had a great part time job. I’m not sure exactly what I learned at BU – except to question everything. Maybe the most valuable knowledge anyone can take away from any advanced education. I developed the only live jazz show in Boston on the then BU-owned FM station. DJ’d a jazz show on a rival college FM station as well. And when I graduated and got a job in New York City and then a studio apartment with a friend – I owed NOTHING. To NO one. Who needed UCLA? Or even Harvard across the Charles River – which we downscale BU students so loved to hate. And after that first job – no one ever cared WHERE I had gone to college. Just that I could do the job – and was more than willing to give it 200 percent.

So now it’s 2022 and a raft of college graduates with varying degrees and job skills owe an eye-popping $1.75 TRILLION for their education, according to the latest Federal Reserve data. The average college grad owes $36, 510. Private school debt averages $54,921. For which many graduates are not-so-humbly demanding forgiveness. For ALL of it.

The Education Department is already poised to cancel $5.8 Billion in debt for about 560,000 students who enrolled in the for-profit Corinthian Colleges. The largest loan-forgiveness ever by the Federal department. Corinthian folded in 2015 after a Federal investigation. And there is great pressure on President Biden from his own party’s self-named Progressives to forgive at least the $10,000 per graduate now being actively discussed in the White House.

So here comes the rant. ARE YOU KIDDING? Didn’t any of these former students or their parents or grandparents or aunts and uncles KNOW what taking out a 4 or 6 or 8 year college loan meant? Has anyone ever had their home mortgage loan just “forgiven”? How about that car loan? And consider the amount of credit card debt almost all of us carry. If you know a bank that’s willing to pretend it never existed — could you please tell the rest of us? And particularly all those former students who have – dutifully – done what they knowingly signed up to do. Pay off their student loans.

Now it’s one thing to knowingly take out a loan for a specified amount of money. And it’s quite something else to have to pay off twice or three times the actual loan — because of the often usurious interest charged for all student loans. At least I think it’s usurious. And it’s something no one ever seems to talk about. Cancel the loan? No way. Cancel the interest? Totally.

And let’s say you take out a loan when you go to college at what even I might think is a reasonable interest rate. Next year it probably won’t be quite so reasonable. Because Congress sets new rates for the loans every year. And if banks are raising rates — you can be sure the Feds will raise them also. Which is how many people end up paying off their original loan 2 or 3 times.

So here’s my proposal. Keep the loans. Cancel the interest. Yes, ALL of it. Why should anyone have to pay INTEREST to be educated? But those who took out the original loans should still have to pay them off. Like all the rest of us have to pay off OUR loans of any kind. And while we’re at it – let’s limit the amount of loans allowed for attending private, for-profit colleges and universities. Some of the best universities in the US are state or even city-run. And before states started cutting the money they put in their budgets for education – tuitions to those really good state schools were actually affordable. Especially for those who actually lived in the state.

And while we’re at it – how about limiting at least some loans for graduate school as well – to cut down on the education mission creep that contributes nothing to most jobs except, perhaps, slightly inflated salaries. You don’t need a graduate degree, for example, to be a good journalist. A careful review of primary school spelling and grammar might be good, however. I’m sure the kids in summer school would love to help you.

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