No, It Should Not.

By Neil Jin (IV), Contributing Writer

On March 10, Congress passed a historic stimulus package, which provided 40 billion dollars in financial aid and loan forgiveness for college, a huge boon to the millions of people who are struggling to pay student loans during the COVID-19 pandemic. Student debt, nevertheless, should not be waived, as canceling loans will actually worsen the student debt problem and divert resources from where they are most needed.

Advocates for loan forgiveness say that government-given loans make college affordable during the pandemic, but make no mistake, this benefit is only short-term. Colleges will soon recognize that people can now pay more, which will then lead to further hikes in tuition and therefore aggravating the problem instead of alleviating it.

Mr. Brian Smith, a history teacher at Boston Latin School, says, “The reason [that] college is so expensive today is because the federal government got into the student loan business.”

An article by the National Broadcasting Company explains that as the federal government increased its spending on student loans, colleges increased tuition by 102 percent. Without the government’s interference, tuition would have only increased by 16 percent. This drastic disparity could easily have meant the difference between enrolling and not enrolling in college for tens of thousands of students struggling to scrape together the cash to pay for secondary education’s prohibitive cost.

English teacher Mr. Robert Oakes recounts, “I was able to pay my way through college because I had a part-time job on the side. […] People can’t do that anymore, since wages haven’t increased at the same rate as tuitions have increased.”

If the government had not gotten involved in the first place and raised the tuition of colleges through federal spending, there would not have been such a gap between the usually consistent increase in wages and college tuition.

Student loan forgiveness also comes at a steep cost to the government. According to Consumer News & Business Channel (CNBC), President Joe Biden’s advocacy for 10 thousand dollars of debt relief per student borrower would cost a whopping 377 billion dollars.

Debt relief, unfortunately, is just not the best use of such an enormous sum of cash. An article by Forbes reported that the highest 20 percent of earners have three times more student loans than the bottom 20 percent of earners. This means that forgiving more debt would heavily favor rich borrowers, completely defeating the point of the program. 

Money going towards loan forgiveness could instead be used for more vital programs, such as food vouchers — CNBC found that just 1.15 billion dollars  spent towards  food vouchers would be enough to keep 40 million Americans out of hunger.

Luc Azar-Tanguay (I) adds, “Money should be going to universal Pre-K. […] Free college doesn’t mean anything to people who couldn’t pay attention in high school. It starts at the younger level.”

Instead of using money for student loan relief, the government should use the money to better establish the foundations of children’s well-being and education, beginning with preschool and elementary school. Subsidizing the necessities of life, such as food and basic education, should be prioritized over supporting university attendance, which is less essential.

The increasing costs of colleges and student loans are certainly a cause for concern that requires action by the government. During the pandemic, however, resources can and should be used in much more effective ways. Waiving student debt will only be a Band-Aid, offering helpful, short-term relief but failing to address the root problem, ultimately exacerbating the debt crisis in the long-term.