Student loan forgiveness for all is becoming very popular.
Support extends beyond the borrowers who would directly benefit. Many consumer advocates and economists also support debt cancellation. Consumer advocates point to the inequalities of student debt. Economists think student loans are a drag on the economy.
Despite the increasing popularity of forgiveness for all, three major obstacles prevent debt cancellation from becoming a reality.
Former Borrowers Outraged By Talk of Forgiveness
People who recently paid off their student loans are often vocally opposed to student loan cancellation.
A common refrain on social media is, “what do I get?” Many former borrowers argue that it wouldn’t be fair to cancel loans after working hard to pay off their debt.
To a certain extent, they have a point. Student loans are a significant issue in America, and it sucks that they had such a negative experience. However, it would seem silly to avoid fixing a problem in the name of fairness.
Addressing this particular issue is complicated. However, by showing some empathy, current borrowers may win over some outraged former borrowers.
Most prominent Republicans remain opposed to student loan cancellation.
While there are certainly some Democrats who are hesitant to forgive large amounts of student debt, the opposition is much stronger within the Republican party.
Borrowers and advocates have two options on this issue:
- Convince Republicans to support debt cancellation.
- Vote Republicans out of office.
Many Republicans campaigned on a desire to improve the economy. Republicans could lead the charge on debt forgiveness, help the economy, and win over many student loan borrowers in the process.
Prior to the 2020 election, I argued that President Trump could improve his chances of winning the election by canceling some federal student loans. An improved position on loan forgiveness could help Republicans score points with many key demographics.
Despite the potential political gains for Republicans, the party continues to oppose student loan forgiveness for all.
The Ridiculously High Cost of Education
The price tag of a college education is probably the most significant obstacle preventing solving the student loan crisis.
Here is the problem: even if we forgive student loans for millions of borrowers today, we will have millions of borrowers with the same problem in the future.
Forgiveness may even make the student loan crisis worse for future students. If people see loans forgiven today, they may think that future loans will qualify for forgiveness. Future students may borrow irresponsibly, under the assumption that their loans will also be forgiven. More student loan borrowing enables colleges to continue to raise the cost of education. As the cost of college grows, the student loan crisis gets worse.
A single round of forgiveness may set a dangerous president that ultimately worsens the student loan crisis.
For this reason, current borrowers should support policies aimed to make college more affordable. Free community college or a four-year education would be a massive win for existing borrowers. If we make college affordable, any fix to the student loan crisis can be a one-time expense rather than an ongoing issue.