Joe Biden Could Have Gone a Lot Further on Student Loans

Yves here. There have been a lot of suggestions about how to improve the Biden student debt forgiveness plan. One way that would have helped the most stressed borrowers would have been to wipe out all penalty charges and interest rate premiums (often added to principal), reset the interest rate to the original level, and cut the principal balance by 50%. Given how punitive the penalties are for student loans in delinquency, the odds are high they were due either to mis-selling of the loan (overstatement of likely future income versus degree cost), student failure to complete degree (which often happens with lower-income borrowers due to “shit happens” like a family crisis), and/or work interruption.

By Sonali Kolhatkar, the founder, host and executive producer of “Rising Up With Sonali,” a television and radio show that airs on Free Speech TV and Pacifica stations. She is a writing fellow for the Economy for All project at the Independent Media Institute. Produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute

President Joe Biden has just launched a plan to forgive a portion of federal college loan debt for millions of Americans. In a speech from the White House, he explained that the Department of Education would “forgive $10,000 in outstanding federal student loans” and that Pell Grant recipients would “have their debt reduced [by] $20,000.” Only those making less than $125,000 a year would qualify for the relief. Given that the average student debt is nearly $30,000, this certainly does not erase the burden that millions of Americans carry with them—some doing so for life, from graduation to past retirement.

There is a predictable pattern to Democratic leaders taking progressive economic measures. First, make bold promises. Then, delay keeping the promise and eventually land on a weakened version of the promise. Congratulate oneself on taking such a bold stand. And, finally, face a massive outpouring of criticism from conservative and even liberal pundits, and from some Democrats and all Republicans, that would have come no matter what version of the promise was kept. Biden’s journey on student loan forgiveness follows this depressing pattern.

When campaigning for president, Biden promised that he would “eliminate your student debt if you come from a family [making less] than $125,000 and went to a public university,” and that everyone would get “$10,000 knocked off of their student debt.”

It took Biden more than two years to land on a plan that forgives only $10,000 to $20,000 of debt, and that too, for a narrowly defined group of borrowers. During those two years, he resorted to delaying tactics such as punting responsibility back to Congress, questioning his own authority to take the step, and claiming to be reviewing his options.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi played her part in discouraging Biden by claiming a year ago that he did not have the presidential authority to cancel student debt. She said, “The president can’t do it—so that’s not even a discussion,” and added, “Not everybody realizes that, but the president can only postpone, delay but not forgive” student loans.

Still, according to Politico, the White House regularly received so many letters from people demanding student debt relief that staff were eventually asked to stop passing them on to the president for review as he agonized over keeping even a small part of his campaign promise.

When he finally landed on his paltry plan, Biden announced it to great fanfare in a 20-minute speech that began with a meandering dive into his own family background and the story of his father’s shame at trying and failing to obtain a loan so he could fund his son’s college education. Biden reminded Americans that as a presidential candidate, he “made a commitment that we’d provide student debt relief,” but failed to mention that his original promise had extended far beyond what he took two years to deliver. As if acknowledging that his plan is hardly radical, Biden said, “Some think it’s too little,” and added, “But I believe my plan is responsible and fair.”

Cue the outrage from politicians and pundits. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called Biden’s plan “student loan socialism” and “a slap in the face to working Americans,” while extremist Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene told Newsmax, “taxpayers that never took out a student loan… shouldn’t have to pay off the great big student loan debt for some college student that piled up massive debt going to some Ivy League school.”

Former Republican lawmaker-turned-pundit Charlie Dent denounced the plan in an op-ed on as “unfair and unwise,” while the Washington Post’s liberal commentator Catherine Rampell took a creative approach in claiming it was a “Democratic version of ‘trickle-down’ economics,” because “plenty of other, less-strapped people will enjoy a windfall, too.”

The Biden administration, to its credit, immediately began identifying Republican criticism on Twitter and tagging it with the exact amounts of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans that those critics received and were forgiven.

This implies that the president was expecting the outrage. It also means that if he was going to pay a political price for such a small measure of relief, he could have, and should have, gone so much further than he did.

Biden’s plan does deserve criticism, but not because it goes too far—on the contrary, it does far too little, especially for people of color.

Academic, activist, and former Ohio State Senator Nina Turner put Biden’s debt relief program into context succinctly on Twitter, saying, “Canceling $10,000 in student debt when the average white borrower is $12,000 in debt, while Black women hold on average over $52,000 isn’t just unacceptable, it’s structural racism.”

She’s right. A 2021 ACLU analysis pointed out that “Black families have far less wealth to draw on to pay for college,” and therefore, “Black families are more likely to borrow, to borrow more, and to have trouble in repayment.” Such analysis of the loan forgiveness plan appears to be entirely missing from the mainstream debate.

Establishment critics are also failing to point out that the reason so many Americans are burdened with so much college debt to begin with is that there has been a concerted effort over several decades by both liberal and conservative politicians to allow student debt to expand to unsustainable levels.

Chief among this was Ronald Reagan’s push to lower government spending in the 1980s. Black studies professor Devin Fergus explained how “No federal program suffered deeper cuts than student aid,” and that “these changes shifted the federal government’s focus from providing students higher education grants to providing loans.” Fergus’s analysis—so relevant to the current debate over Biden’s debt forgiveness plan—was part of an op-ed that the Washington Post published back in 2014.

Additionally, Democrats are not innocent in creating the problem. The Intercept pointed out in January 2020 how Biden “played a central role” in supporting legislation during his tenure as senator that allowed college debt to balloon. Specifically, “Biden was one of the most enthusiastic supporters of the disastrous 2005 bankruptcy bill that made it nearly impossible for borrowers to reduce their student loan debt.”

Today, with college loan debt at an all-time high, and a majority of Americans supporting the erasure of some or all student debt, the supposedly liberal party cannot even coalesce around its own president’s far-too-modest debt forgiveness program, with so-called centrists like Senator Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada and Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio claiming it goes too far.

Those who are invested in the upward mobility of wealth will always express outrage against economic justice. Responding to his critics, the president tweeted, “I will never apologize for helping America’s middle class—especially not to the same folks who voted for a $2 trillion tax cut for the wealthy and giant corporations that racked up the deficit.”

Biden could have doubled or tripled the extent of his debt forgiveness plan and made the exact same retort.

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  1. ambrit

    Absolutely nothing about returning State colleges to free or near free status.
    In this, as in many other socio-economic issues, the Overton’s Window has dropped off of the right side of the flat Earth.
    So far, the Reactionaries have played their cards well. No significant pushback against the massive “investments” in wars and proxy wars. Shifting the funds sent to the Ukraine back to domestic programs, like free state university tuition would do much more to make America “safe.” An educated public is much more aware and involved in local, State, and National politics, but then, that might be exactly what the Establishment fears the most.
    It begins to make sense when cynicism is ramped up.
    Stay safe and pay attention to what ‘they’ do, not what ‘they’ say.

    1. Ignacio

      Yep, if the mechanisms that result in debt overload remain intact, the forgiveness plan just scratches the surface and should have to be repeated again and again. I didn’t read the plan but my guess is that it doesn’t come with the recognition that the system performs badly and looks designed to construct social barriers. Such a statement would at least give the foundations for a reform.

      1. ambrit

        Astute observation. Student debt has a purpose, just not one that benefits the general public.

    2. Joe Well

      This reminds me of immigration amnesties that left the system of exploitation intact and gave false hope to many future undocumented immigrants.

      Of course, I can’t say I would have opposed those, either. Hard to deny happiness to millions of people in the here and now against a future evil.

      1. ambrit

        It has developed not necessarily to the public’s benefit.
        What i do not embrace’ is the idea that general standards of living must sink for the generality while soaring for the elites. When I was young, (and we gleefully stalked mammoths on the snowy plains,) we were told that the West would bring the rest of the world up to Western standards of living, not that our standards of living would sink back towards those of the “rest of the world.”
        We are living through a huge betrayal of trust. The Institutions of our Western Civilization have shown themselves to be corrupt to the core. What comes next is beyond my capacity to deduce.

  2. KLG

    49 years ago next month my in-state tuition bill at our flagship state university was $179.50 for fall quarter. My dorm room was $135.00. I remember because I wrote the checks. Or $1177 and $885 in current dollars. That comes to $6186 per year. I avoided a meal plan. Current costs for same: $17,960, which is a bargain in comparison to sister institutions in this country. In my day tuition contributed 10% of the total cost, but rule or agreement, with the state and other sources accounting for 90%. Today tuition accounts for 30-40% of the total. This is not a tax increase! Nothing to see here, move along.

    1. Kurtismayfield

      State tuition should be a the sum total of the state minimum wage and hours worked part time for 12 weeks a year. Make the legislature pay for the rest.

      Here in Liberal Massachusetts, they get to lie and say tuition hasn’t been raised or raised very little. However the fees charged by the State Uni make up over half of the course’s costs.

      1. Joe Well

        But look at the stunning grounds and new buildings at the UMass campuses! They even have Starbucks now!

        1. ambrit

          I hate to be bragging on our Half-horse State University campus here in the North American Deep South, but the “new” dorms built five or ten years ago have a dedicated gym, ‘study’ lounge, and a few other amenities that I didn’t have way back in the day.
          Don’t get me going on the most recent ‘upgrades’ to the sports complex facilities. That suite of buildings looks like an Olympic Village.
          As for how ‘things’ used to be; Phyl remarked that when she was going to college, she would work for a year and go to University full time the next year on what she had saved up previously. She did that three times.
          Speaking of Phyl’s college experiences; she never graduated because that was not why she went. She took an art and design heavy course load because she wanted to improve her abilities in a field that did not require credentials.
          A decade ago, we sat down one night and organized her course grades. Why we did so, I now forget. It turned out that Phyl had enough course credits and of the right sorts that she could have graduated from the Louisiana State College system. She then came out with a statement that showed a perfect understanding of the Marx Brother’s Ethos.
          “I studied art, with a capital ‘A’. Any organization that would have required certification in it to work there in that field would have been proof that they did not understand the concept.”
          It looks to this aging cynic that the ‘Four Year Degree’ is now mainly a means of controlling labour. Gatekeeping at it’s best.
          Stay safe.

  3. Alice X

    An informative piece, thank you. I checked all the links but didn’t find this piece by Jon Schwarz at the Intercept from 8/25/22, apologies if I missed it.

    The Origin of Student Debt: Reagan Adviser Warned Free College Would Create a Dangerous “Educated Proletariat”

    In 1970, Roger Freeman, who also worked for Nixon, revealed the right’s motivation for coming decades of attacks on higher education.

    edit – now I find it in today’s links, I’ll just leave it here anyway. It is well worth reading.

  4. digi_owl

    I suspect the title could have been applied to every Democrat president since Clinton, regarding their presidencies in general.

  5. The Rev Kev

    Old Joe could not have gone further. There would have been lots of plans and suggestion but everybody knew something had to be done before the midterms. What they came up with was the absolute most that old Joe would tolerate or accept. And it would have been grudging at that. In the years to come when the White House staff biographies come out, I am more than willing to bet that old Joe was the Dr. No for whatever idea they came up with and if there were not the elections coming up in November, nothing would have been done at all. Colour me cynical.

  6. griffen

    There are many that are fairly outraged, and rightly so, at shouldering this burden as a taxpayer with zero to little attachment to this debt. Arguing for more relief of this burden feels like, well, yelling at clouds. Demanding the circumstances that allow or permit, and in varying ways flatly encourage, the exorbitant sums borrowed should be the focus. It’s been discussed here before, but the meandering methods of college administrations over the past 20 to 30 years (okay probably longer) to fuel the cost increase which has generally gone unchecked.

    Unchecked and without reservation, colleges can demand whatever they want students to pay. Students could clearly, perhaps to state the obvious, vote with their feet. Clearly history has a strong sense of irony here. The senator from DE was an incredibly strong proponent of the bankruptcy reform bill. Could also start with throwing a revision to the personal bankruptcy laws and restrictions on what is or is not covered there.

    1. hk

      One minor case in point: why are college textbooks so expensive? I think I could have replaced everything when I taught with readers costing 1/10 total, even when copyright was accounted for (and did what I did when I had the time.) Relatively small part of the puzzle, I suppose, but it is unseemly that students pay thousands of dollars each semester just on textbooks.

      1. ambrit

        Like so much associated with today’s Higher Education system, textbook publishing is a get rich quick scheme.

        1. Arizona Slim

          Back when I was a college kiddie, I was appalled at the quality of the writing in my textbooks and other required reading materials. Calling it horrible would have been a compliment.

          Something tells me that things haven’t improved.

    2. Basil Pesto

      There are many that are fairly outraged, and rightly so, at shouldering this burden as a taxpayer with zero to little attachment to this debt.

      Quite wrongly so as it happens, actually.

      The money you (or any American) owe as a federal tax obligation will not be used to “pay for” this debt forgiveness. You shoulder no burden in this instance.

      The notion is a fallacy designed to generate contrived division whenever there is any sign of a beneficent social policy breaking out, particularly when such a policy needs to be taken much further. Once you understand that the notion (good and responsible class a is paying for the failings of bad and delinquent class b) is in fact completely incorrect, naturally it loses all rhetorical force and the actual truth of the argument is laid bare (class b has to be made to eat shit in perpetuity for various ulterior motives and besides, that’s just the way we like it).

      I used to believe it too when I was younger! (that’s just how I was told taxes work after all, what did I know?) It’s liberating to be disabused of received wisdom you’ve held that has just been glib lying (or genuine ignorance) the whole time. Also, infuriating.

  7. Rip Van Winkle

    Follow the money for the past 40+ years for this system to flourish. Student debt somebody’s asset. Many a Saturday afternoon 25+ years ago where Bob Brinker was saying Sallie Mae bonds were wonderful investments.

    And the debt collection niche would make Don Corleone blush. All quite legal. How did that happen?

    Great book by Alan Collings on student loans had been out for some time. Should be a standard hand out at every local high school college night.

    1. Rolf

      Rip, thanks for this pointer to Collinge’s 2010 book — I hadn’t see this. The publisher’s blurb:

      The Student Loan Scam is an expose of the predatory nature of the $85-billion student loan industry. In this in-depth exploration, Collinge argues that student loans have become the most profitable, uncompetitive, and oppressive type of debt in American history.

      This has occurred in large part due to federal legislation passed since the mid-1990s that removed standard consumer protections from student loans-and allowed for massive penalties and draconian wealth-extraction mechanisms to collect this inflated debt. High school graduates can no longer put themselves through college for a few thousand dollars in loan debt. Today, the average undergraduate borrower leaves school with more than $20,000 in student loans, and for graduate students the average is a whopping $42,000. For the past twenty years, college tuition has increased at more than double the rate of inflation, with the cost largely shifting to student debt.

      Collinge covers the history of student loans, the rise of Sallie Mae, and how universities have profited at the expense of students. The book includes candid and compelling stories from people across the country about how both nonprofit and for-profit student loan companies, aided by poor legislation, have shattered their lives-and livelihoods. With nearly 5 million defaulted loans, this crisis is growing to epic proportions.

      The Student Loan Scam takes an unflinching look at this unprecedented and pressing problem, while exposing the powerful organizations and individuals who caused it to happen. Ultimately, Collinge argues for the return of standard consumer protections for student loans, among other pragmatic solutions, in this clarion call for social action.

    2. Acaia

      Yes, thanks for this.

      Hmm… published in 2010… 12 years ago.

      I wonder if there’s been any legislation passed since then, to even slightly curb these predatory lending practices.

  8. Lex

    The Dems especially will never take on the university lobby in order to fix the underlying issue. And the universities are in no position to fix the issue because they’ve run their macro financial situation into the ground. They require more, not less, money flowing in to keep the wheels spinning on their real estate development. But we’re Biden to keep his other promise, free community college education, real change would be possible.

    Those first two years are often the most expensive either because the university requires living in dorms or it’s the only reasonable option for an 18 year old student. In those years is when student trudge through their general ed requirements and try to figure out what they want to study. People who just want a job but need some sort of cert can often get it in a two year college.

    I get really annoyed by “but muh tax dollars!” arguments, but the idea of swooping in an funding university educations in the current context of how universities spend money is not at all how I want my tax dollars spent. I interface professionally with university admins on building projects all the damned time. These are neither serious nor competent people in charge of america’s universities.

    1. Rip Van Winkle

      Great point about General Ed classes. In Chicago metro area College Of Du Page and Moraine Valley Community College charge $140/credit hour. Same as private engineering uni Illinois Institute Of Technology’s price …40 years ago. Same 1-2 year calculus, physics, chemistry classes. None of these offer The Big Ten Game Day Experience, however.

  9. Telee

    In many cases, the wrong question is being asked. The basic question should be why shouldn’t free or low cost education be considered a human right and a benefit to society? Other countries ( from Mexico to Germany) have come to that conclusion.

    1. Fraibert

      It’s true that free or low cost higher education is an entitlement in some other countries. However, higher education is not a universal right–along with limited cost comes rigorous selection processes, usually including the dreaded high stakes examinations, to weed out most potential candidates.

      Personally, I’m not sure that this more selective approach, coupled with higher subsidies, is better. One of the benefits of the US approach is that it does enable broad access to higher education.

      Still, I think it needs to be said that “free” higher education probably should be coupled with higher standards. If state universities are mostly subsidized, they should not therefore become grades 13-16.

  10. Starry Gordon

    I think Biden just wanted to push some more cash into the economy, and directed the payoff to those who believe in and practice higher education as is, which is not everybody but a particular constituency. This is simply traditional electoral politics. One also notices at electoral times a lot of road repair for another constituency.

    At some point it would be interesting (although impossibly radical) to investigate what the Education Industry had been actually doing. It seems to me that if actual knowledge and skills were being imparted, the payoff for the community ought to have been almost immediate, and this should have been reflected in higher wages or fees chargeable by the newly educated, while their now more valuable labor enriched the community in general and allowed them to pay a higher tax bill if that wasn’t enough. If someone incurred a $52,000 debt and as a result received no income to pay it with, their time, effort, and money were seriously wasted. Some kind of con is going on, and it needs to be recognized and exposed. This of course is utterly beyond the capacities and even the imaginations of those in control of the system; indeed, they’d be undercutting and subverting their business.

    1. Fraibert

      Couple of points in response.

      First, debt forgiveness doesn’t push cash into the economy like a stimulus payment does. Rather, forgiveness reduces the cost to service debt over time. Even as a way of vote buying, it’s therefore pretty weak sauce (though it is still vote buying).

      Second, this is a poor payoff to people who believe in higher education because it is not universal. The class of 2026 (starting this year) doesn’t get a free $10,000 bonus. The careful people who took advantage of the several years of forbearance to pay off their loans don’t get a bonus. Etc. The lack of universality does make it further smell like vote buying but again it’s a very lame form of it since it’s liable to anger a good number of people.

      Finally, there appears to be a failure in the linkage between college graduation and reasonable economic returns. The general rule of thumb is that a student borrower should be able to comfortably pay off his or her student loans in the normal 10 year period if the total principle does not exceed one year’s income. This implies that a four year college graduate who borrowed in the range of $30-50,000 probably should be fine since an income in that range is not unreasonable to expect for a college graduate. Yet, the various media stories seem to imply that graduates with debt of this size are not doing well…

  11. Alex Cox

    Interesting to see Nina Turner defining this as a Black vs. White issue rather than in terms of class.

    As always with our betters, ignore the Hispanics, Native Americans and poor Whites! Divide and rule!

    1. Linwood Tauheed

      Alex. Nina Turner not only raised the issue of race, but also the issue of gender. And, also class since it is unlikely that those who come from higher class backgrounds, either from their parents or their own income, owe any significant student debt. So the student debt mentioned for whites is more likely the student debt held by poor whites. And, it is not insignificant that Black women have an average of $52,000 in student debt, 4 1/2 times the average debt of whites.

      What really divides is only seeing class without seeing race and gender.

      1. Mike

        Division is about dividing an economic class by race, religion, political party, and any issue elites think up to keep people confused and angry at one another.

        I hear the term “white privilege” constantly but NEVER hear the term “rich privilege”. Why is that? There are many poor whites but there is not a single “poor” rich person.

  12. hk

    Without limiting the topic specifically to this issue area, I’m constantly puzzled that people should think “moderating” on a policy wins many, if any, people over. Actual “moderates,” as in people who “knowingly” hold middling view on a bunch of issues, insofar as we know from public opinion research, are very rare. Most people who appear to be moderate do so only “on average,” ie they hold strong views on many issues that are inconsistent with conventions (ie hold both extreme left and right and “other” views depending on the issue) that cancel one another out or claim to be “moderate” because they don’t know enough and/or are undecided. Neither is unlikely to be impressed by “moderate” positions. The people on the other side would not care much more for moderate concessions either. So it makes only sense that policymakers should go all the way in general, not water things down.

  13. omg

    A debt cancellation used to be that creditors were left footing the bill for their bad loans and decisions.
    It seems to me that creditors are a protected class now, no matter what they do, they never lose. Taxpayers are always there to pick up the tab.

    1. Fraibert

      The federal government is overwhelmingly the largest issuer and holder of student loan debt. Unfortunately, at this point, the government is therefore the largest enabler of the bad loans and bad decisions.

  14. Jason Boxman

    It’s interesting to note that, now that liberal Democrats have “done something” about student debt, any serious reform is certainly off the table, much like ObamaCare ended any pretensions that we might adopt a just health care system in this country. The way is shut.

    Congratulations, Democrats!

  15. Karl

    Pelosi said this, according to the article:

    “….the president can only postpone, delay but not forgive” student loans.

    Biden just forgave, by decree, $10K for those making less than $125K/year. So, Pelosi must have been wrong?

    It does raise the question of the President’s actual authority to do this.We do know that the Fed can “forgive” toxic assets of banks by simply “assuming” them, a euphemism I suppose for “forgiving” them. They have explicit authority to do that. But the President? I suppose it’s in the fine print somewhere.

    1. Fraibert

      Here’s the Administration’s legal rationale based on a post-September 11 statute that authorizes the Secretary of Education to modify student loans in certain cases of war or national emergency:

      The national emergency cited is COVID-19.

      Separately, the relevant statutory provision is codified at 20 USC sec. 1098bb and can be read here:

      1. Percy

        The limited authority to which you refer does not authorize loan forgiveness, only modification under conditions of national emergency. There are those who would suggest that the only national emergency we have at present is the Biden administration — -probably, as a legal matter, an insufficient condition to support mass debt cancelation.

    2. ian

      The question I have is who has standing to challenge this in court? On it’s face, it sure looks like spending money that hasn’t been appropriated first by congress.

  16. Mira Martin-Parker

    Ten thousand is nothing. It’s more of an insult than any sort of benefit. Biden would have been better off not giving anything at all and blaming the Republicans for student debt. But forgiving such a puny amount reveals that he’s flagrantly out of touch with the reality of the problem: the amounts of money actually involved, the massive accumulation of interest, and the sadistic level of stress placed on young people (the banks send these horrible letters showing the how much one will owe over the years as the interest accumulates, and these amounts are utterly overwhelming, hundreds of thousands of dollars, seeing them makes you want to kill yourself–I have had this experience–because you know you will never be able to pay the debt off, ever, the loans were designed to be debt traps for working-class youth). And these young people HATE Democrats for their overt betrayal, they are NOT grateful to them. Young working-class people have no future under our present political system and they know it. The American political class of both toxic parties are knowingly manufacturing a class of militants that have nothing to lose. This is how they maintain social control, they mobilize anger and frustration from below. They do not rule in the Platonic ideal fashion, by using advanced mathematical knowledge to bring about happiness, harmony, and beauty in the world. But instead they use their mathematical skills as means of a social control, the toxic Santa game of divide and rule–treats for the naughty, punishment for the good. They are the players and true gangsters governing us right now…

    1. lentil

      Ten thousand is nothing. It’s more of an insult than any sort of benefit.

      My thoughts exactly. 10,000 would have been really great — in like 1996!?! Maybe. But in 2022, not so much — students I know have been graduating with 30-50k in debt in recent years, and if they go for a masters or professional degree, then tack on another 20-50k more, easily.

      But I don’t think the political class is knowingly making a generation of militants (why would they do that?). Instead they hoped to make a generation of debt slaves. Student loans were just a neoliberal strategy of financializing higher ed, and turning it into a debt factory. This created a new asset class of loans (a source of profit for finance and the wealthy).

      The problem is that the costs and the loans have increased to the extent where everyone knows that the loans can never be paid back. It seems like they’re forgiving a token amount, and then trying to find the magic percentage of income that can be squeezed out of borrowers before they default — but that’s probably a fool’s errand, at this point.

      1. Fraibert

        I don’t believe that graduate school debt should be treated similarly to undergraduate debt. Undergraduate education generally believed to further the common interest of creating better citizens, as well as creating economic benefits to the student and ultimately to society at large. Graduate education is undertaken in pursuit of specialization in a particularly field and in many cases is more oriented towards personal economic advancement. (That is not to say that some graduate fields aren’t more publicly oriented, such as medicine, at least in traditional conception.)

        Moreover, any argument that student borrowers are unsophisticated and incapable of assessing the risks and benefits of student loan debt should be laughed out of the room for a _graduate_ student. (Side note: I would also point out that the arguments that undergraduates, at about 18 years of age, are too unsophisticated to understand student loan debt issues also imply that 18 year olds lack the maturity to be allowed to vote–so I’m not sure why people keep making those arguments.)

        Also, I hate to keep having to say this, but the federal government is now (by far) the largest issuer and holder of student loan debt. Take it for what you will that the government is willing to keep the system going.

        1. Jason Boxman

          Perhaps. UCF offered a specialized degree program and I mistakenly enrolled. It was similar in some ways to others, but ultimately it was a money grab. Shame on me perhaps, on the other hand, the whole thing was a grift that was very well marketed and regarded in the local papers, with The Orlando Sentinel giving and Orlando Business Journal giving it a nod.

          Fortunately I landed well enough in another field and paid off the loans, which Obama increased the interest rate on, thanks!

      2. Mira Martin-Parker

        A debt slave is one thing. An educated debt slave is quite another. An entire generation of educated debt slaves constitutes a potential radical movement. How could those controlling the handing out of funny money to desperate young people not know that?

        I absolutely don’t trust their radical intentions, as they are manipulative and deceitful in nature. And sorry to be a conspiracy theorist, but I absolutely think this topic is related to that of the synthetic left, a fabricated entity that no doubt has its mirror image in the radical right. Both are manufactured movements, and not authentic ones…made by players and gangsters good with numbers, not genuine philosophers. Genuine philosophers are not into money. Everyone knows that.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          39% the “debt slaves” did not finish their degree. So they went into debt but did not get credentialing and presumed income uptick.

          75% of borrowers went to 2 to 4 year colleges, which implies 25% were in a graduate program. That in nearly all cases will be law, business, or med schools. People that deeply invested in careerism are not rebels in the making.

          The high default rates are among student borrowers at for profit colleges. Nearly half default within 12 years of getting their degree. 41% defaulted within five years at 2 year programs and 33% at 4 years.

          I doubt that you consider people getting overpriced largely technical degrees at second to fourth tier schools as “educated”.

          1. Mira Martin-Parker

            Those with student debt aren’t necessarily educated, but those who seek out loans to begin with are probably the brightest and most disciplined elements within their respective groups. Once trapped in debt that cannot be repaid, they become bitter and angry. Then a movement comes along and gives them an ideology and an enemy (the rich, the capitalists, the left/right, the Russians, the Chinese, etc.). I’m drawing on Hannah Arendt’s historical analysis regarding such movements in her book Totalitarianism. They seek out angry and alienated elements within society, and their victims are often not the uneducated but the more “spirited” elements within society, those “seeking” something larger than themselves. People who pursue education are by definition seeking something larger than themselves.

        2. ambrit

          The history of slave owning cultures suggests otherwise. The “educated” slaves usually associated themselves with the slaveholding power. Most revolts rose from the “uneducated” slave populations. They were the ones who had nothing to lose.
          Greece and Rome both had substantial “educated” slave populations, often in positions of importance. Spartacus was a gladiator, not an especially “educated” profession. His followers were generally field hands and low level house servants. Imperial Roman slaveholding survived and continued for centuries after the Spartacus revolt.
          As for “Genuine Philosophers,” well allow me to observe that, in today’s social system, anyone not “interested” in money simply does not exist to the society. So, I might edit your assertion by suggesting that there are “public” philosophers and “private” philosophers.
          YMMV and stay safe.

        3. hunkerdown

          Dis you?

          “Mira Martin-Parker writes, “Me. Me me me. Me me me me me me. Me. I I I me. My. My my my mine. All mine. Yes, it’s all very much mine.” We believe her. Further research reveals that Mira has earned a Master’s in Philosophy and recently, a Master’s in English at San Francisco State University.”

          Knowing your oeuvre, we can value your words and neoliberal normalization efforts accordingly.

          “I absolutely don’t trust their radical intentions, as they are manipulative and deceitful in nature.”

          The middle-class identity is predicated on this belief, same as every non-productive priesthood in any other class society. The lie of superiority can only be realized by suppressing others.

          “Genuine philosophers” sounds like exactly the manipulative and deceitful business you decry. So is “everyone knows that”. Schizophrenic “splitting” is another hallmark of the lying bourgeois.

          You’ve been using manipulative, deceitful language throughout this thread, as if middle-class interests and properties were inherently valid and deserving of protection. They’re not.

      3. drumlin woodchuckles

        If they think they can hire half the young militants to shoot the other half, then of course they would do that. And they would create the young militant class to begin with, if they felt confident they could hire half the young militants to shoot the other half.

  17. Sideshow Bob

    The Student Loan relief is a fake program to build enthusiasm for the Dems going into the midterms.
    The courts will force it to be abandoned after the election.

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