While I agree on the economics and the dire need for deeper reform, my biggest concern is actually the optics. 'The Dems are giving out a lot of free money, and it's only for people who went to college' seems tailor-made to build resentment. It's not just that it's regressive, it's that it's regressive in a way that's incredibly obvious to a normal person.

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As someone who has 4 degrees (not bragging, just giving bonafides), made poor choices and good choices along the path, has advised and taught for over 29 years , and is very much part of the higher ed insider establishment, here is the simple advice I gave to my son who is looking at colleges:

1. If you’re in the top 10-15 percent of your undergrad college’s gpa when you graduate, the difference between public and private in terms of job or grad school opportunities is zip.

2. Colleges have made it much easier these days to get a double major in 4 years, so choose a major you love and a major that gets you a job. If those are the same major, even better.

3. If a department can’t tell you on its webpages within 2 clicks what jobs its majors get and if its first example in its placement page is “our majors go to grad school” that’s a warning sign.

4. You really only know what your parents do and don’t understand your career opportunities at 18 so over the next 4 years, intern, intern, intern. Don’t know in what? The BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook is a great way to learn what an occupation actually does.

5. This is the only time in your life that society will let you “find yourself” so take a variety of courses, read newspapers, read books, join clubs and, yes, take jobs and learn there as well. Everything you do in the next 4 years is basic training… you just don’t know what it’s for yet.

6. Never underestimate the blessedness of sitting alone under an oak tree reading a book.

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The reasons why Student Loan Forgiveness rankles me even more than the pademic.

1. It's greed disguised as social justice. When you look at the main advocates, its mainly 20-30 somethings with a lot of debt... usually with dumb degrees. I see very few engineers advocating for it and a whole lot of "social policy" majors.

2. None of the advocates really care about long term reform. They want the cancellation first, then the reform after (yeah fucking right). This means that our kids in High School get jack shit. It's a one time give away to those who cry the loudest.

3. Once forgiveness happens, future students will assume that it will happen again in the future. Right or wrong, this will encourage them to take bigger loans and make irrational choices... Lets go to USC instead of UCLA (note, I am a USC Football fan, but UCLA is a much better deal).

3a. They will also take more risk at studying oversubscribed (some might say useless) degrees such as (well you know which ones I am talking about)

4. If this happens, kids get loose with money, then the schools will just start raising tuition. Yey capitalism (no seriously, I like Capitalism).

So... what should happen with the reform.

1st. All public colleges should be free for the first two years, or private schools that have similar programs at the same cost level of public schools.

2nd. Student loan debt should become eligible for bankruptcy.

3rd. College programs should be reviewed for effectiveness to be made eligible for loans. Graduation rate/job prospects. Not too strict and it should account for underserved students, but basically, held accountable.

4th. Only after all that has happened, should we consider student loan debt relief... but in a targeted manner. The forgiveness should be directed at those who dropped out of school. Anything else should be income based.


My alternate proposal is to give $10,000 to all Americans except those who have student loans. Their balances would just be reduced by $10K.

Also... as a well know swing voter. Student loan forgiveness is one of those... I will not vote for any candidate that supports it.

Yes, I have class resentment.

On a separate note: I had my daughter max out her student loans to use for school, then we put her savings into a bank account. If they forgive student loans, she stands to make $7K free and clear. I guess it will be a windfall that we really don't need. Hate the game, but make sure you win.

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The issue, moreso than loans, is the cost of college. I think in order to solve that, we should demand our universities create large administrative committees to study the issue!

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Jan 3, 2022·edited Jan 3, 2022

The fundamental problem with student debt is that the student loan program has funded the entire higher Ed sector becoming a massive grift. The debtors are victims who deserve forgiveness, but as long a new loans are happening the grift is ongoing. Shutting off the fire hose of cash is by far the more important consideration.

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Jan 3, 2022·edited Jan 3, 2022

It's not directly touched on here, but a contributing problem is it now seems an unspoken mainstream #online progressive position that the right amount of education is always axiomatically "more".

It's great that our farms are more productive because you can go to Texas A&M or whatever and get a BS in agronomy. In part, that education is so beneficial because Norm Borlaug went and did his PhD on the subject and kept a billion people (and counting) from starving. But if *everyone* went and got a PhD in agronomy, nobody would farm anything and we would all be eating dirt.

Full disclosure: went and got my own PhD, like a dummy

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Just a couple of thoughts:

My wife and I have repaid 6 figures of student loan debt. And I'm going to resent it like hell if other people get relief after we've paid it all off.

There's a lot of stupid, over priced degrees in the world.

U.S. higher ed needs massive reform: there are far too many administrators doing dubious work. How many DEI bureaucrats and student life leaders do we really need?

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You touch on this trend, but there really has been an explosion of what you could call bullshit majors in the last few decades, and loosening on the quality controls for a number of others. And there's less honesty up front about how overwhelmed certain majors are. There are 3,000 "Sociologist" jobs according to 2020 data, and over 37,000 new sociology graduates graduated that same year. I know the social scientists broadly can prepare someone for a lot of jobs, but do we really think that sort of ratio is the best outcome?

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I heard an NPR interview with a guy from Brookings who said it was racist to not forgive student loan debt because of the wealth difference between student debtors by race, even within income bands. This argument was, typical for NPR, not contested or vetted and was taken at face value.

You alluded to specious progressive race arguments for forgiving student debt and then described how wealth was a poor metric for determining need of loan forgiveness, but I was wondering if you could more directly rebut the race based arguments for loan forgiveness if indeed they are flawed.

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I'm generally not a big "personal responsibility" guy because life is hard but at some point people need to live with some of their choices, don't they? I'm all for shutting down scams and deceptive practices and garbage programs that don't do what they say they're going to do. I'd be fine with exploring any options for cutting the price of school going forward. But if you decided to go to school and you decided to take loans, you should probably be accountable to paying the loans back.

I live in Maryland.

Towson University - $15k/year if you live off campus

Loyola University - $53k/year if you live off campus, but few people do that, so $67k

If you're from Maryland and want to be a sociology major, education major, art history major, etc. and you're going to Loyola University (and you aren't from a wealthy family)... you've made a terrible choice. It's bizarre to me to think that the government should step in and fix it.

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Biggest scam is saying we need student debt relief for racial equity.

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A few points…

My brother went to welding school with low costs and doesn’t like the idea to pay off peoples student loan debts. I paid my off a few years ago…I don’t like it either. Lots off people are not going to like it.

Loans based on the financial merit (ability to pay back based on earning potential of degree) makes sense.

The government should initiate a rating system for degrees. A similar lines of thinking to putting calories on food. They could identify key economic data about the degree on is about to go into debt to obtain and force universities to provide the information with the advertising for the degree. If we do it for a Pepsi why not for a $100k degree. These decisions are key to financial health. Clearly young people need protection from predatory universities (i.e. all of them).

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A very compelling argument that will find no favour with the college educated white Dems that are quickly becoming the largest constituency for the party. There are no more New Deal Democrats. Now this is the program:

Forgive our student loans.

More federal grants to create well paid make-work NGO jobs for professionals (“do tanks” not “think tanks”).

Give us more immigrant maids and nannies (and amnesties so that we're not breaking the law)

Tax the rich to pay for day care so our immigrant nanny can dump her kids in daycare while personally taking care of our little prince and princess at home so Dad can work at the law firm and Mom at the NGO (or Vice versa)

Mass transit to make it easier for our badly paid immigrant nanny to commute to our home (we take Uber or Lyft ourselves)

Densify urban areas so we can afford a downtown apartment.

SALT tax exemption forever so red states will subsidize our expensive blue city lifestyle

Cut spending for public police while our condo association hires private security

Dumb down the public schools, to make those kids less competitive with ours, who go to private schools

Get rid of the SAT so smart Asian kids won’t compete with our dumb white legacy kids when applying for college

Ration Covid medicine by race, so working class whites we despise will die first

Raise energy prices for the working class and industry, while giving us a tax subsidy for our pricey Tesla or Prius

Encourage Twitter, Google and social media to ban any viewpoints we disagree with

Gee, I wonder why the Democrats aren't doing too well in the polls these days...

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Why forgive loans for public service instead of raising wages for that public service? The social benefit of this work doesn't depend on how costly the degree program was, or how much of it someone financed with debt.

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Jan 3, 2022·edited Jan 3, 2022

The problem with any of this is that it is not a solution for the overall issue.

If the issue is the high cost of education, then deal with that. Simply forgiving student debt does nothing for that and probably increases costs because it removes a moral hazard if people think this is the new norm.

My own selfish take is what about me? My kids are in college now. Do they get this? Do I get this?

Don't think there aren't a lot of people thinking this.

And yes Baby Boomers got more subsidized colleges at much lower prices for them, but as always the "grey greed" is a big issue and will make this also super unpopular.

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If we wanted to conjure in a lab an issue that would reunite libertarians, earnest social conservatives, and opportunistic rightwing populists, opposition to student debt relief (aka a bailout to the coddled, leftist higher education establishment) would be it.

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