A college or university education is not a guaranteed right. Those who choose to attend a college or university, especially an expensive private institution of higher education when cheaper alternatives such as government-subsidized public universities are available, should find their own means to pay for that privilege.
Some students have worked at menial jobs to earn enough to pay for their higher education academic degrees. Others earned scholarships or were lucky enough to have their educations paid for by their parents. Still others took out student loans which they spent years paying back.
But now President Biden has turned the traditional American notions of responsibility and self-reliance on their heads. He issued an executive order letting millions of college and university students off the hook for federal student debts they willingly incurred. He is sticking the rest of us with the tab to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars.
President Biden’s higher education student debt relief windfall plan, which he announced on August 25th, will cancel $10,000 of debt for each student with an annual individual income of up to $125,000 (or $250,000 per household). Low-income students with Pell grants will have $20,000 of indebtedness wiped out.
In short, President Biden has sent big government to the rescue for higher education students who were already able, like many other Americans, to take advantage of twelve years of publicly funded K-12 education. It is fundamentally unfair on top of that to transfer the burden to the taxpayers of debts willingly incurred by a privileged class of higher education students for their own personal economic benefit.
Indeed, President Biden’s handouts to these students do nothing for the many millions of workers without a college education who have taken out loans to pay for the tools of their trade or for the vehicles they use for work. Yet the president expects these same people, many of whom are living paycheck to paycheck, to help pay the cost of debt relief for individuals whose higher education degrees will put them on an income trajectory way above the average.
As Laura Hollis noted in her August 29th FrontPage Magazine article regarding the student loans that President Biden is forgiving by executive order, “As only about a third of Americans attend college, this means that the bulk of the taxes repaying these loans will fall on Americans who, on average, make significantly less than the people who took out the loans.”
The beneficiaries of President Biden’s largesse do not have to do a thing in return. They are not being asked to pay the cancellation of their debts forward even a little bit by, for example, committing to provide a fixed amount of time of community service.
In defending his student debt cancellation windfall program, President Biden made a false comparison to the government’s forgiveness of federal loans to hundreds of thousands of small businesses across America during the COVID-19 pandemic. The government forced these businesses to shut down in the first place as the initial waves of the coronavirus surged through the country. The loans were provided to prop up the small businesses and help the affected employees get through the crisis. Forgiving the loans that the government’s sweeping restrictions necessitated was the right thing to do. This unique set of circumstances bears absolutely no resemblance to letting higher education students off the hook for debts they willingly incurred for their own personal economic benefit.
President Biden also claimed that his spending hundreds of billions of additional dollars on yet another government handout program will not have any material impact on inflation. Jason Furman, who served as former President Barack Obama’s economic adviser, disagreed. Mr. Furman said that the expensive giveaway of money with no visible means to pay for it is a “reckless” idea that will pile on a “half-trillion dollars of gasoline on the inflationary fire that is already burning.”
One specific inflationary consequence of concern that even the Biden administration acknowledges involves the potential acceleration of the rate of increase of the cost of higher education tuition that is already outstripping the general rate of inflation.
“Experts warn that schools could easily game the new structure Mr. Biden has created for higher education financing,” the New York Times reported in its analysis of the Biden student loan cancellation plan, “cranking up prices and encouraging students to load up on debt with the expectation that it will never need to be paid in full.”
It is high time that elite colleges and universities with fat endowments dig deeper into their own treasure troves to take care of the financial needs of their students. The presidents of these institutions should take a significant cut in their bloated million dollar-plus compensation packages, with the money saved going to help students in need who would otherwise have to take out more loans to defray their expenses.
Finally, there needs to be more accountability for what the higher education institutions are delivering to their students. It is not acceptable for the students’ dollars and the dollars of taxpayers who are being asked to foot the bill of President Biden’s debt relief plan to be wasted on woke curricula that will not prepare the students adequately for the labor market.
As George Leef, the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, wrote last year in an article entitled “College Has Become Merely a Racket” that appeared in the National Review, “College has become a very expensive credentialing mechanism that adds surprisingly little in the way of useful skill and knowledge for students.” He added that federal aid has not given us ‘a more educated workforce’ as promised, “but merely a prodigiously bloated education sector selling increasingly empty credentials.”
President Biden’s latest move to curry favor with young voters and placate his progressive base will only make this problem even worse.