Political Debate: College Student Loan Forgiveness. An affirmative perspective

In recent years, the cost of college has become a heated issue in American politics. Some, like Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, argue for student loan forgiveness, while others oppose such intervention by the government outright. The simple reality is that college costs too much at a time when it is imperative for people to earn a college degree, as GEDs and High School diplomas are insufficient in today’s modern economy. If society as a whole is to benefit from our college system, we have to make the costs cheaper, thus making higher education more available to Americans. Therefore, we need more support for students and student debt.

Right off the bat, we need to address a key point: the modern American student pays much more for college than their predecessors did. Business Insider reports that College tuition costs have more than doubled since the 1980s, with more than 45 million Americans bearing the burden of a collective debt of approximately $1.5 trillion. Part of the reason for this spike is increased demand which pushes up the cost of universities across the board. To some extent, the increase in costs is simply due to the increase of Americans who need a college degree. In a recent report, the National Center for Education Statistics found that the number of people with a bachelor’s degree or higher has increased by 8 percent from where it was in 2000.  

Indeed, support for the universities could help to prop up the universities, but alone will not sufficiently address student loan debt. In 2019, Student Loan Hero—a nonpartisan research organization for college students—reported that 69 percent of American students took out debt, with the typical student taking out an average debt of about $29,000, and parents in that same year took out approximately $35,000 in Federal loans. To put this in perspective, the median income in 2017 was $61,372, according to the United States Census. Thus, the average student loan debt was roughly 47 percent of the median income for the entire income-earning American populace. This onerous debt has brought many to their knees, putting their long hard work to waste. The Wall Street Journal reported that in 2017, nearly 5 million Americans defaulted on their student loan despite the economy generally getting better; this was an increase of 274,000 from the year before. If we don’t act, more and more people will have to focus on relieving their debts rather than contributing to the American economy. We need more self-sufficient people, and that means that Americans need to be rid of bone-crushing debt.

Some will argue that college is not a necessity, but rather, a luxury. This idea is, at best, laughable. A report published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that those with college degrees performed far greater in weekly earnings than those who did not have a degree in 2018. For those with Master’s degrees, the median weekly earnings were $1,434. For those with Ph.Ds, that number was $1,825. The group with the third-lowest weekly earnings was the group of “some college or none,” with median weekly earnings totaling $802. Those with only a high school diploma or no diploma performed far worse.

Elizabeth Warren, a senator and presidential candidate, has vowed to cancel student loan debt to help millions of students who need their debts relieved. Under her plan, students’ debts would be eliminated up to $50,000 for families with incomes below $100,000, according to the New York Times. For those above this point, debts would be partially forgiven, allowing those who can afford their debts better than others to pay them off when they can. Unlike Senator Sanders’ plan, which does not take into account income, Warren’s plan explicitly focuses on those who need financial support the most.

As more and more Americans go to college, we are going to need to invest in them more. College-educated citizens are the fabric of the American future—a future in which a new economy and nation will be built. If we don’t want to be left in the dust by other nations who are investing in their college students, we must take action here and now. The choice is ours, we can continue on the current path and wait for more Americans to default on their debts, or we can take action and allow the new generation of working Americans to grow and thrive.













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Conor J. Kelly was the Opinion Editor for the Lorian and a prolific staff writer. He graduated from Loras College in April of 2021 and is now pursuing his master's in public administration at the University of Illinois, Springfield. His new work can be found on The Progressive American substack.

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