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Daily Journal
     April 25, 2022      #99-115 KDJ

Should government bail out college debt

By Ron Jackson

I may not be as smart as a fifth-grader, but I am smarter than at least 41 million other Americans. That is an estimate of how many citizens hold student debt totaling roughly $1.5 trillion. That is a lot of money. That’s a three-year war on terror money.

Certainly, I am being facetious. I am not smarter than anyone, but when it comes to paying for secondary education, I have been strategically luckier than many. Instead of going directly to college, the military was suggested as a way to afford future schooling. Sure enough, after three years of subservience and loyalty, the government reciprocated by funding my education. Even luckier, my first two years of college were totally free. Actually, with the G. I. Bill, I profited while going to school. The remaining costs were covered by the G. I. Bill and employer tuition reimbursement. Again, luckier, not smarter.

It looks like the government is actually going to address the burden of student debt. Through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, 40,000 student loan debtors will have their debt discharged and nearly 4 million more will possibly have their loans forgiven. That’s a good start, especially if you are one of the lucky recipients. It is also a start of the next great debate: should the government pay for education debt borrowers chose to enter? I have heard a few. I can see both sides of each.

Why should the taxpayers foot the bill of people who chose to further their education at any cost? Literally buying into the “get a college degree” philosophy or just desiring to achieve a higher level of education is not a bad choice. However, for some, doing it at a life-long cost has turned out to be a costly investment. Can we really fault those who sought to expand their intellect when we know the cost of ignorance is exponentially higher? Look at all the ignorant choices some people make that the taxpayers already cover. Consider the trillions of dollars American taxpayers spend to engage in unwinnable and unnecessary wars. Education is a great thing. The trickle-down benefit of an educated society cannot be accurately calculated.

Why didn’t many of those college debtors choose a trade, learn a skill and pursue a career that provides a great way of life? Surely, they could have become a professional asset to society without incurring astronomical debt. I understand that line of thinking.

But, even 50 years ago, our public education system began phasing out vocational education that prepped students for rewarding, honorable careers. There was no push to learn an applicable skill that would sustain and improve our infrastructure. The emphasis was to go off to school. Learn about the world. Learn a foreign language. Expand your horizons at any cost. Don’t worry about paying it back. Millions of students were influenced to follow that direction. Comparable to the predatory home lending crisis we created that influenced many to pursue the American Dream they couldn’t afford.

Why don’t we help those who have suffered catastrophic financial devastation due to a health issue they did not choose? How can we allow families and lives to be destroyed because of an unforeseen illness or accident? Shouldn’t that type of financial ruin take a higher priority over the miscalculated costs of education?

One college-educated architect can design the next great wonder of the world, but it will take thousands of skilled artisans to erect it. For too long, our national focus has been to produce more architects and information scientists and engineers while not keeping pace with producing plumbers, electricians, carpenters, farmers, mechanics, nurses and teachers. In the long run, we will tackle the student debt dilemma only by reducing the emphasis to accumulate it. Every person who has been in deep debt knows this.

There is no easy answer to appease everyone. However, we have forgiven “massive crippling” international debt. We can forgive our own.

Ron Jackson can be contacted through the Daily Journal at editors@daily-journal.com.

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