Joe Biden, the President of the United States announced on Wednesday a plan for federal student loans to be forgiven up to $10,000 for those borrowers who earn less than $125,000 each year. The same applies for Pell Grant recipients with need-based Pell Grant recipients. This policy, which could impact as many as 43,000,000 people, will not cost $300 billion and would affect at least 300 billion taxpayers.
Much of the opposition to that announcement has centered specifically on money—money that taxpayers will be on the hook to repay, money that will be used to ease the burden of people with six-figure salaries, and money that borrowers have already repaid and now won’t have forgiven. Many people have objected to this last point. They said that they would not wait if relief was available if they knew.
Although this calculus may be understandable, it has far-reaching implications beyond just finances. Biden’s announcement has caused many college-educated graduates to ask themselves if they made the right choices and avoided debt.
It was something I knew from a young age that I would go to college. When I was deciding where to apply for college, things that were important to me included geography, diversity of majors and opportunities to study abroad, as well as the student population. These factors helped me to create my dream school list.
They were all too expensive for me.
My freshman year was 2018, and students in public four-year college were starting to get ChargedIn-state attendees: $21,000, out-of state attendees: $37,000; room and board inclusive. Four-year private four-years ChargedStudents earning more than $48,000 per year. The average student who graduated with a bachelor’s degree from a public university in late 2021—as I did—BorrowedOver $32,000
I eventually came to terms with my parents about the sacrifices involved in starting my adulthood so far from home. They also didn’t consider it an option to pay a large amount for me, considering our family income and my siblings’ education expenses. It was not possible to get student loans. So I started to look for ways to pay for good schools.
This was the beginning of a lengthy and difficult journey. My final two years in high school were spent trying to increase my chance of receiving merit aid. I attempted the SAT and ACT five times. In my quest for a high score, I practiced dozens of exams between every testing day. I passed seven Advanced Placement exam (AP). Homeschooler: I purchased used prep books, and learned the material through a variety of YouTube videos and online guides.
I kept quiet about the schools that I wanted to go and made a list. Everyday, I looked for deals. I reached out to admissions counsellors by email and phone, looking for specific assistance or guidance for homeschooled student. My standardized test results and grade were the only things that I could use to get a merit scholarship. I scoured College Board forums for tips that might help me find a school—any school—that I could attend without taking out loans.
What if my concern was to get a low-cost education would it have influenced how much time I spent on standardized exams and APs? Yes. Yes. I spent a lot of my teenage years trying to figure out how to pay for the majority of my adult life. What if debt relief was coming, would I have tried harder, sought out elite, expensive schools and been willing to borrow? Yes. Many of my classmates chose the same path that I did and now look back with regret at what they missed.
When I was ready to apply for college, I chose a handful of schools that I felt would give me a good chance at merit aid. These schools were very close to what I wanted, however I was now able to justify the fact that they weren’t too far from my priorities. My decision was made to live in the area and commute from campus. Based on my grades and test scores, the university granted me $35,000 per year in merit aid.
Thanks to some smart decisions and aid, college tuition was never more expensive than $2,000 per annum. My parents paid the rest. I have never lived off campus. To finish college a semester earlier, I had to take on a lot of courses and cash in on AP credit. In college, I did not study abroad. To finish college earlier, I decided to drop a second degree and not participate in research programs or language classes. To pay travel expenses and to cover the costs of tuition, I sometimes worked at three different jobs.
Biden’s recent announcement by the federal government that it will forgive student loans makes these choices seem less important in retrospect. This is not to suggest that I wouldn’t have made reckless decisions in high school or college if I had known I’d be exempt from student loan debt. It is not to say that I was fortunate, or that students who borrow student loans have no other options. This makes me think about the opportunities that I have lost in my quest to save and trim. What if I could have learnt another language? Are you a foreigner? Have you completed an extra major? Did more research on your own? Have you spent more time developing professional contacts than you did speeding through the required courses?
Many frugal graduates now ask these questions with frustration. This may be criticized as being unsympathetic. Some may say, “I died from cancer.” Chit“But even though we have the cure, I still want people to die from cancer.”
It’s too simplistic. The debt cancellation announcement yesterday is not so important in curing breast cancer as it was yesterday. Placebo. The relief precedent will mean that students will continue to borrow large amounts of money and they will not be tempted to make huge financial sacrifices. Colleges won’t have any incentive to lower their costs, which are driven up by government-subsidized student loans. Even the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget is not happy. ForecastsA return to student loan levels as they are today is possible in just a few short years. People currently enjoying relief will soon feel the down-side consequences. Inflation, Taxes that are higherReduced government spending on programs that they support as deficit reduction Grows ever higher.
Some of the choices we made in order to save money on college have had a significant impact on our lives beyond college. The high school experience was very different. It was more difficult and stressful than college. High school students were focused on how to navigate a financial future. Our college experiences may have placed us in a disadvantage in the workplace. We were unable to borrow money to go to prestigious schools, and could not afford to take part in learning opportunities that would better prepare them for their long-term success.
Graduating debt-free was one of the best parts of my college experience—and just four years since I started my degree, it’s already more difficult to reproduce. YouI was awarded a merit scholarship by him that enabled me to make cost-savings possible. Been ReducedAnd tuition Increased. Anyone who wants to go to college should not have to make great sacrifices or suffer hardship. Fairness is a concern that I find to be reasonable. I believe they shouldn’t be ignored as we celebrate yesterday’s forgiveness. This one-off cancellation isn’t the way to make higher education more accessible and affordable—systemic reform is.