My Turn, Russ Stevens: Student loan debt forgiveness favors high-income Americans

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 28, 2022

I find it ironic that President Biden used the term “fair” in his answer to a reporter’s question about his executive order forgiving so many federal student loans. The program is not fair to the vast majority of Americans. The Penn Wharton Budget Model shows that forgiveness tends to favor high-income Americans.

Is the program fair to the American population who will have that much more inflation eroding the spending power of their hard-earned income? Is the program fair to people like my former physician who started his own lawn-care business to fund his medical school and worked alongside his studies to earn a debt-free degree? Is it fair for one of my niece’s family who has lived in substandard, too small, housing for more than a decade to pay off their student loans so now they can do what they’ve dreamed of doing? Is it fair for a friend’s son who owes private school loans?

Is it fair for someone who knew better than to sign for student loans and skipped college altogether? Is it fair for a sister-in-law who took their hard-earned money to pay for their daughter’s school through an advanced degree program so she wouldn’t start her career saddled by debt? Is it fair for people like me who took on extra work to pay for my schooling so I could graduate with multiple degrees with no debt on any of them? Is it fair for those who are having big chunks of their debt forgiven and are learning that the “nanny state” will bail them out of hard situations? Finally, will the government take even more taxpayer money and provide $10,000 checks to each of us who handled our money and debt, or lack thereof, responsibly?

At the risk of sounding cold and cruel, I think loan forgiveness like this is a bad idea. It’s a disaster all the way around and will result in more inflation. It will also result in more irresponsible spending as students with forgiven debt spend their windfalls and borrow more from a system designed to encourage irresponsibility. I worked hard for my degrees, and it took longer than normal to get them. But I had zero school debt when I finished each of them.

Russ Stevens lives in Salisbury, teaches online for multiple colleges around the country and is author of “Say No! To College Debt.”