Biden’s proposal will undeniably change the trajectory of millions of families. However, if we don’t figure out a way to make the student loan system pay for itself, it may collapse and take the hopes of millions of students to earn a college degree down with it.
The Hildreth Institute
Don’t overlook the bottom-up efforts of protesters who pushed for debt relief
Janelle Nanos’s article on Senator Elizabeth Warren’s and Representative Ayanna Pressley’s long-term effort for debt relief does a good job documenting the work that they and other elected officials did to push the Biden administration toward some student loan debt forgiveness (“A decade-long push for relief on student debt,” Page A1, Sept. 12). However, in addition to minimizing the role of Senator Bernie Sanders, the article ignores the role of the long-term bottom-up organizing against student debt.
Strike Debt, an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street, initiated the slogan “You Are Not A Loan” and began organizing for cancellation of student loan debt and other forms of debt well over a decade ago. It played a key role in getting billions of dollars of debt canceled for students at for-profit colleges. Subsequently, the Debt Collective, recognizing that “Alone our debts are a burden. Together they make us powerful,” has built on the shared identity as debtors of millions of people across all categories of society to begin building a debtors union and has worked with other bottom-up groups to effectively push Biden toward student loan debt cancellation. Please give credit where credit is due.
The writer is a professor emeritus in the department of politics, policy, and international relations at Salem State University.
We’re bailing out a sinking boat without fixing the leak
I read with interest Janelle Nanos’s article on forgiving student loan debt. While I agree that all people should have access to higher education if they have the drive and talent, I think the article missed several points.
First, a study done by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found a correlation between the availability of student loans and tuition cost, a clear indicator that increased access to student loans puts inflationary pressure on the cost of attending college. Forgiving these loans will exacerbate this inflationary spiral and limit future access of deserving students.
Second, this new policy does not address how we got here, and if causal factors are not resolved, we will find ourselves in the same place in a few years. Bailing out a sinking boat without fixing the leak is not a viable solution.
A better solution would be for states to devise their own tuition assistance programs, which may involve voter-approved subsidies of state colleges or state-funded lending programs, which could involve federal block grants. As we saw with the bank bailout nearly 15 years ago, the ability of the federal government to print money allows our elected officials to avoid finding viable, essential solutions.
David B. Weden
Richly endowed private colleges ought to share their wealth with public institutions
In a Sept. 11 letter (“Don’t blame student loan debt on the few schools with large endowments”), Terry W. Hartle of the American Council on Education claims that “there is no relationship — none, nada, zip, zero — between” the size of one college’s endowment and the amount of student debt at another. Hartle may not have had the benefit of my college writing teacher’s advice that repeated assertions imply their opposite. After all, his argument that there is no relationship also implies that there could be one.
Hartle’s main contention is that the biggest cause of student debt is the decline of state support for public higher education. Bringing that up in the context of the strangely bloated endowments of private colleges and universities suggests a remedy. Why not put a modest tax of, say, 2.5 percent on multibillion-dollar endowments and use the revenues to significantly lower tuitions at state and community colleges?
I bet there would be enough left over to throw in universal prekindergarten!
Read More: Getting out from under the weight of student loan debt