Boots & Sabers

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0731, 03 Oct 23

Student loan repayments restart

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a part:

Meanwhile, the second aggravating factor is that demand has risen as high schools across America portray a college education as the only viable path to stave off poverty. Instead of portraying the military, the trades, entrepreneurship, or other career paths as equally viable, too many high school teachers and counselors — all college graduates themselves — have culturalized kids to think that anyone without a college degree is lesser.


Compounding the misleading culturalization, the abysmally wretched financial education provided in those high schools leave prospective students ill-equipped to evaluate the risk/reward of financing a college degree with debt. Ignorant of the power of compounding interest, too many kids are borrowing tens of thousands of dollars to get a degree with little market value. The result is that they are unable to get jobs after graduation that pay enough to easily pay off the debt.


It is true that some people are not getting the value out of their degrees that they had hoped for or were promised. It is true that college costs more than it should. It is true that student loan payments make it more difficult to afford other things and that everything is more expensive than it used to be. It is true that lenders were all too eager to dole out money without any consideration of the degree being pursued or potential future earnings of the graduate.


All of these things are true, but it does not absolve the borrowers from the obligation to pay off their own debt. It is not a financial question. It is a moral one. If you borrowed the money, then you must pay it back. To fail to do so makes you a shameful deadbeat and a drain on your family and community. Having a college degree does not make you any less of a loser if you renege on your obligations.


Furthermore, nobody wants to hear you whine about your student loans. In 2022, less than 38% of adults 25 and older had at least a bachelor’s degree. Three in five adults in the United States do not have a college degree and did not sign up to pay off the debt of people who have one. Most adults who do have a college degree have either paid off their student loans, are paying off their own student loans, or never took out a loan in the first place. They did not sign up to subsidize deadbeats who do not want to pay off their student loans.


The college and student loan system is terribly broken and has led far too many people into borrowing more money than they can easily afford to buy degrees of marginal value. Honor, respect, and dignity demand that the borrowers pay it back as promised.


0731, 03 October 2023


  1. jonnyv

    Funny how you frame it as an “us vs them”. People without degrees subsidizing those WITH degrees. But fail to talk about the 16 million (38%) people who have some sort of educational debt that never got their degree that this would benefit as well.

    I paid off my own student debt, I helped pay off my wife’s student debt. I have NO problems if all gov’t student loans were to disappear tomorrow. We are far beyond any sort of “moral” obligation when you see giant corporations taking free taxpayer money. Or bending every rule in order to lower their tax obligations.

    1. Cancel all federal student loans. Republicans can look at it as a gov’t tax refund if it makes them feel better. They are always looking for ways to defund the gov’t anyway. This would be another way.

    2. Set a limit on the amount of total interest an individual has to pay on private student loans. For instance, say 10% of the total loan amount. If you took out 50K, the most you pay back is 55K. If you have met that obligation or once you have hit it, then the rest is forgiven. But the borrower needs to be making regular payments or penalties can occur.

    2a. Or cap all education loan interest rates to 2%. It can never go higher or lower for the life of the loan.

    3. Every 5 years have an independent commission determine the top 3 most needed blue collar & top 3 white collar careers and those students get their debt cancelled after 5-7 years in that profession after graduation. Plumber, Electrician, Teacher, Software Engineer, child care, nursing, whatever that is… if we need those employees, make it appealing. My wife has 10K knocked off her loans when she taught in a low income charter school for 5 years in the early 2010s. It was great and encouraged her to stay there an additional year or two more than she probably would have.

    4. Maybe allow student debt to be cancelled in bankruptcy just like any other debt. But find a way to make it very unappealing to do so.

    5. Give a portion of the interest back to the college (or any post high school education) if they can prove that the student got an actual job in their field for x years. Incentivize the school to focus on degrees that are in need and realistic, as well as make connections to the local businesses, communities, and their old students.

    We should be trying to educate our people. Make it as appealing as possible to seek any sort of higher education or apprenticeship. College is becoming less and less needed with the information that is available online and AI. But there will always be a need for some sort of higher education for some jobs.

  2. dad29

    We are far beyond any sort of “moral” obligation when you see giant corporations taking free taxpayer money. Or bending every rule in order to lower their tax obligations.

    You mean those “giant corporations” are taking the money Congress or the President gives them, right? And the tax rules written by Congress and signed by the President, right?

    I’ll say this for you: you finally figured out that there are NO ‘morals’ in D.C. For your sake and that of your family, I hope you’ve purchased enough ammo to make it through the next 10 years of what will be chaos.

    Larger point: “IT” degrees, “education” degrees, and MBAs are largely (not exclusively) trade-school goods, like plumbing and carpentry. The only degrees that are “think” ones are in the Liberal Arts and to a great extent, medicine and engineering.

    As to your 2 and 2a: only the Feds can lose money like that. You’re back to subsidizing some at the expense of others.

    As to your #3, perhaps you’ll hire all the faculty that will be unemployed after the 5-year plan says they’re no longer needed? There’s already some labor action going on at UW-O due to the layoffs and furloughs brought on by income problems. Be careful!! Those TA’s and IT profs are real brawlers….

  3. jonnyv

    Dad29, let me correct this for you. The tax rules that are WRITTEN by corporate lobbyists, passed by congress, and signed by the president. The ones that usually benefit themselves. Yes, those rules. I would love to know the last time an actual congress person actually wrong a tax rule themselves.

    I subsidize a great deal of things I don’t agree with thru the gov’t. Education is near the least of my worries. An educated society is better for everyone.

    And we are in agreement that a great deal of current degrees can be done outside the college experience. What people are paying for these days is networking and status.

    As far as #3… figure it out. I work in an industry that is heavily dependent on cycles. Our numbers can fluctuate up to 20% in the off season. I don’t know what those people do, nor is it my concern.

    PS. I own no guns or ammo. And I am not concerned about the “next 10 years” of chaos.

  4. jonnyv

    ^^^wrong = wrote.

  5. dad29

    I am aware that lobbyists generally write legislation. I was being generous by suggesting that Congress-critters actually 1) can write, and 2) can devise loopholes.

    There’s a rumor that General Electric wrote the entire tax-reform bill passed in the early 2000’s…..

  6. Mar

    “But fail to talk about the 16 million (38%) people who have some sort of educational debt that never got their degree that this would benefit as well.”
    And whose fault is that? Did they drop out because they were stupid? They were lazy? They decided they could get a better job working in the real world or government instead of pursuing their Underwater Basket
    I do agree with Jonny that the college system weaving degree.?
    I agree that college system is broken. Both financially and academically.
    The college system are terribly corrupt with their indoctrination of students by liberal college teachers. I found that out when I went to UW-Madison
    I was lucky enough to pay my way through school when tuition was $3000 per semester in 1999.
    Now, it’s over 3 times as much so, colleges are ripping off students.
    But the bottom line is that if you took the money, pay back the money. If those who money didn’t pay on their student loans when there was no interest in the loan, then they are really stupid and the university that gave them a degree, should demand these deadbeats give back their diploma.

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