Business and economic writers aren’t keen on the idea of student loan debt cancellation. But the discussion is starting to shift away from calling it nonsensical. While the idea has upset some and been dismissed as madness by others, it is gaining traction in the mainstream media.
“I grew up at a time when the state of Kentucky believed in higher education. It made it easy for a kid like me to go to school, get a degree and ultimately do what he wanted to do in life,” writes Joseph Gerth of the Louisville Courier Journal. “That meant a kid like me, with a grant and a fast food job, could go to a state school and not pile up a load of debt. Not a cent of it, in fact.”
Gerth — the former chief political reporter at Kentucky’s biggest newspaper — has worked at the Courier-Journal longer than some Millennials and all Zoomers have been alive, he knows he is a product of another age. Though it is important to remember the student debt crisis doesn’t only impact the young, it does impact them disproportionately.
“At some point, we lost our way. We stopped investing in our young people, and they are paying the price now with ridiculous tuition, sky-high student loans and interest rates that are nearly double what you would pay when buying a home,” he writes.
The total mass of student loan debt is more than $1.6 trillion, and increases at a rate of about $4,000 per second on average. This is the most obvious, most critical financial disaster out of quite a few that loom overhead. And addressing it with a bailout of the American student in the form of debt cancellation isn’t a new idea, but is having a moment in the sun thanks to the 2020 Democratic presidential primary.
Gerth called out common claims that debt forgiveness benefits the rich and punishes those without college debts, ultimately being a regressive policy (as Pete Buttigieg has contended). In doing so, he shared a pearl of wisdom useful in nearly any debate in the current political climate.
“Because someone else benefits, it doesn’t mean you or someone else is injured,” he said.
And he’s right to say that something needs to be done, as many students doubt they’ll ever pay off their student loans. He also argued that through funding higher education directly, taxpayers already helped his generation pay for college, yet asking the same for the young seems somehow unreasonable to many Americans.
“Taxpayers helped me and people of my generation get college degrees,” he wrote. “There’s no reason we shouldn’t help younger people do the same.”
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.