Repaying student loans

August 30, 2023 • 11:40 am

On the news two nights ago, they had a segment about how the Supreme Court overturned Biden’s plan to forgive a substantial amount of student loan debt. They then showed several people kvetching about having to pay their debts back because they now had other priorities. One woman, for example, wanted to open a beauty parlor, but couldn’t afford the down payment because she now had to pay her student loans back.

This kind of griping irritates me, because before Biden’s plan everybody had to pay their students loans back. When you take out such a loan, it’s like taking out a mortgage: you are legally obligated to pay, and if you don’t you lose (the house in a mortgage, or getting your wages garnished if you don’t pay back a student loan).  Forgiving some students but not earlier ones who borrowed seems unfair. The whole program is couched as a “progressive” initiative, but I don’t see the “progressiveness”.

Anyway, after I saw the news, I wrote this to a reader:

 Everybody should repay their student loans. I’m tired of hearing people kvetch about now having to pay.

And I got back this response:

It is infuriating to me – it seems to be celebrated mainly by the elite academics but despised by the working class, most of whom already paid their loans or never attended college.  People take loans knowing about the need to repay.  If they made bad choices, that is their problem.  It is not a taxpayer problem.  Politicians looking for votes do not realize that if they “forgive” once, there will be no end to it (it’s the same with “reparations”, by the way).  They will have to forgive loans every generation and colleges will become ever more predatory, with ever more predatory majors – never failing to attract students since now college becomes just 4 free years to have fun…

Please leave your comments, pro or con, below.


67 thoughts on “Repaying student loans

  1. I have a rather large amount of student loan debt (and very good credit), but have never been interested in loan forgiveness. I live in Virginia and I have written to my legislators multiple times. I have urged them to work to create jobs that pay salaries that will allow borrowers to repay their loans. Isn’t that the point of college anyway–to get a good paying job?

  2. The student-loan issue is a good illustration that the Democrats and left-wing politics in general has ceased to be about the poorer, working-class, half of society, and is now about the better-off, college-educated people with trendy, vanity beliefs such as wokeness.

  3. I think you’re missing a slightly larger picture. Consider this scenario:

    Government thinks a college education is a good ides, set up a loan program. It’s “guaranteed” by the government.
    Banks can’t believe their good fortune. “ Anything we loan will get repaid, either from the debtors or the government! We can’t lose!”
    Colleges say “ Look at all that “free” money the banks are willing to loan! We can raise our tuition astronomically!”
    Students are seduced by the vision of a snazzy degree, note that all the colleges seem to have pretty much the same ridiculously inflated tuition, should have been a bit more careful.
    Couple this with drastic cuts in individual states’ support of higher education, and VOILA! A student loan crisis.

    And Jerry, you’re forgetting how much more expensive college is now. When I went to college , the tuition was $1500/year, all 4 years (1962-1966).

    1. Here’s what it was suppose to do back in 2010.

      The student lending overhaul ends the current program that subsidizes banks and other financial institutions for issuing loans, instead allowing students to borrow directly from the federal government. Interest rates for some borrowers will also be lowered.

      Now, instead of having banks use government money to loan tuition, the government will lend the funds directly. Starting July 1, all new federal student loans will be delivered and collected by private companies under performance-based contracts with the Department of Education, according to officials.

      “By cutting out the middleman, we’ll save American taxpayers $68 billion in the coming years,” the president said. “That’s real money — real savings that we’ll reinvest to help improve the quality of higher education and make it more affordable.”

      The law will also put a cap on annual loan payments for college graduates — never exceeding 10 percent of their income. It will also increase the number of Pell Grants offered to low-income students. The changes are meant to revitalize community colleges and increase support for institutions that serve minorities and historically black colleges.

    2. NONE of this excuses students from having to pay back their loans. They knew the price of college; they knew how much they borrowed; and they knew the interest rate and amount of payments. Why on earth does the higher price of college now, or the greed of bankers, somehow excuse students from having to meet their end of the agreement?

    3. To prevent this vicious cycle, I think that US government, thinking that university education is a national priority, should give universities or students a frank subsidy, as in Europe. This would achieve the goal at a small fraction of the cost.

      Indeed, I don’t know how Americans would take this, or the inevitable limitations that come together with such a measure. E.g. in my country, in programs that are in high demand, there are competitive exams and only the higher achievers can get in. Also, if you have graduated but decide to change field and have another major, you no longer qualify for the subsidized tuition fee and must pay a much higher one at a state university, or go to a private university.

    4. Only 30% of Americans over the age of 24 have a college degree. (Some sources say 35%)

      The lifetime earnings of college grads is on average about $500k more than those without a college degree. Per the NY Fed, 60% of people with student owe less than $25k.*

      So now, ~70% of Americans (e.g., plumbers, carpenters, nannies, mechanics) will pay the debt of the ~30% of Americans who earn ~$500k more than they do.

      What about the 70% of Americans who didn’t go to college? In return are you willing to pay off the car loans of those who didn’t go to college?

      * The person with the $100k+ loan is the person who decided to go to graduate school (e.g, law school, medical school, business school) where there is no borrowing limit. They made that decision at 22yo after having taken at least one math class.

  4. Yes forgiving loans seems unfair to those who have already paid theirs off, but in a lot of cases, those who find themselves unable to pay off their loans were lied to with a promise of a well paying job which never materialized for them, so ultimately, it is a taxpayer problem (really, a society wide problem). Countries with free higher education and living allowances for academically qualified students do a lot better in terms of all measures of human well-being than the US where a vast bureaucracy of DEI centered administrators are making college education unaffordable to all but the 1% richest families. The bigger problem which needs to be addressed is the conversion of elite Universities from institutions of higher learning to corporate scams which pretend to provide a valuable education while maximizing their profits from people who can’t really afford to go to University. My tuition in 1965 was about $360 a semester and was paid for by scholarships which were fairly easily available to kids with the highest marks in their high school years. I took out a loan for living expenses which came to $6k and which I paid off in about 3 years from the good jobs I got in part because of that education. The system worked well. Political Correctness at the time was a joke and no one took it seriously enough to try to cancel anyone. Fast forward to today and the picture has changed for the much worse.

    1. … than the US where a vast bureaucracy of DEI centered administrators are making college education unaffordable to all but the 1% richest families.

      A cunning plan for how to solve the problem is forming in my mind.

  5. I don’t think those loans come with promises of getting a well-paying job. Could you give me some examples of these “lies”? Are the jobs written into the loan agreement? That can’t be true. It is an expectation, not a promise.

    1. I suspect that many students who went to for-profit “universities” like Corinthian College, Heald University, etc., etc., and took out loans to do so (helped and indeed guided to these loans by the school’s financial offices), did so because these schools all but promised the availability of well-paying jobs after graduation (you’ve surely seen the ads for these schools on TV at one time or another), in many cases while providing education that simply would not fit the students for the proposed careers; like the nursing school that failed to provide students with sufficient real-patient experience that they could meet state nursing qualification requirements.

      1. > All but promised . . .

        But promise they didn’t.
        Another draw would be: “Easy for D+ students to get into, the sort about whom the best you can say is ‘alert and oriented, continent of all excreta’ ”

        Surely the sharp practices and poor standards of these predatory “colleges” must be well-known to any prospective student seeking last-chance higher education. If not, more’s the fool and it will be a life lesson for them.

      2. For-profit universities are a small part of the problem. Here are just a few examples from our elite “not-for-profit” universities.

        Recent film program graduates of Columbia University who took out federal student loans had a median debt of $181,000. Yet two years after earning their master’s degrees, half of the borrowers were making less than $30,000 a year.

        At New York University, graduates with a master’s degree in publishing borrowed a median $116,000 and had an annual median income of $42,000 two years after the program… At Northwestern University, half of those who earned degrees in speech-language pathology borrowed $148,000 or more, and the graduates had a median income of $60,000 two years later. Graduates of the University of Southern California’s marriage and family counseling program borrowed a median $124,000 and half earned $50,000 or less over the same period.

        At least 43% of the people who recently took out loans for master’s degrees at elite private universities hadn’t paid down any of their original debt or were behind on payments roughly two years after graduation, the available data show.

    2. While there is no promise in the strict sense of the word, I (as an outsider) see very strong cultural conditioning. Every single time when blue-collar workers complain of low wages or job cuts, a crowd of know-alls rush to explain that this is what happens and what should happen to people who have been too stupid to attend college, with the clear implication that all those without college degrees would and should live in misery.

  6. The trendiness of loan forgiveness, recommended “reparations” (see California), and the innumerable state Diversity agencies, all illustrates a classic argument against state socialism: corrupt operators milking the state for their own benefit. While the Trumpistas want their own definition of elections, the wokesters want their state to forgive their loans, abolish their rents, and award them sinecure employment as DEI apparatchiks. Two different, possibly complementary paths toward the status of a banana republic—one from the Banana Republicans, and one from the Socialism of rent-seekers.

  7. It’s inevitably unfair to forgive (some) of today’s student loans when previous students didn’t get that benefit. But the cost of college degree has gone up so much that the flip side is that, if you don’t have some sort of forgiveness, today’s students are saddled with huge burdens previous students didn’t have. It will never be perfectly fair in this regard, but there needs to be some sort of adjustment like this. As I understand it, the Biden plan has a needs-based component. It seemed pretty fair to me. So I mostly disregard the bellyaching from people who had loans in the 80’s, 90’s, 2000’s.

    One thing that really bugs me is all the flip comments, from left and right, about young people being “seduced” by “snazzy college degrees” (see comment above). Give students some credit. Most are thoughtful and diligent, many are following their passions, and most recognize that a four year degree is the single biggest factor in prosperity later in life – it’s simply a smart decision. People calling out the salon owners not wanting to repay their loans is cherry picking a small fraction of students, and sounds like the Republicans talking about welfare queens.

    1. You should now apologize for saying that I sound like a Republian talking about welfare queens. That’s irrelevant; it was what was shown on television but the main point is that students don’t want to pay their loans back.

      Somehow you seem to have forgotten the rule about civility toward the host.

    2. “Huge burdens”? The average debt load is about $25k and must be repaid over 10, 20 years.

      Agree completely that students have not been bamboozled. And if a person is going to follow their passion then don’t expect the person who did not go to college to pay for it.

  8. This is all easy for me to say because I went to university in the UK when it was free, although I can understand why forgiving student loans goes down badly with those who paid their loans off. However, I have frequently seen tweets and the like from the economist/ lawyer Robert Reich who thinks that student loan forgiveness is a good idea and an excellent way to give the economy a major boost. I am not an economist and I have no idea if he is right; but assuming he is, wouldn’t this benefit graduates who paid off their loans and many who didn’t go to university in the first place, as well as those whose loans get forgiven. Is it really right to oppose this on the basis of unfairness to those who paid off their loans?

  9. I think loan forgiveness should be conditional. My personal example: when I took out my loan for grad school, I was told it would be forgiven on the condition that I worked full-time for ten years at a qualifying non-profit, and that I made 120 payments. This is the agreement I entered into when I borrowed the money, and by early next year I’ll have fulfilled my part of it. I won’t be terribly surprised if the federal government finds some way to screw me over, but I’m trying to be cautiously optimistic.

    Unconditional forgiveness seems unsustainable to me.

  10. The loans themselves are predatory, and the interest rates make payment a never ending struggle of two steps forward, one step back. Should loans be forgiven? I don’t know. Should anyone profit off student loans? No.

  11. Be enslaved to debt is wrong. Student loan debt forgiveness is absolutely needed. But so is periodic debt forgiveness in general, say, every 10 years or so. Think of working class people becoming virtual slaves of the banks and credit card companies due to the ridiculous interest rates on credit card debt. In many cases paying only the minimum monthly payment (which is all many can pay) it would take decades or even a lifetime to pay off the debt, making millions slaves to the banks and giving creditors control of more and more of the economy and working class paychecks. There is everything progressive about debt forgiveness. And, since there is no free will, don’t blame these people for getting into debt, blame an unjust economic system. Neo liberals are the problem, not leftists.

    1. But so is periodic debt forgiveness in general, say, every 10 years or so.

      If the credit-card companies had to take the hit then they wouldn’t lend in the first place. If the taxpayer took the hit, then people would just run up huge debts (what would there be to stop them?) and hand them over to the taxpayer.

      1. “run up huge debts (what would there be to stop them?) and hand them over to the taxpayer” — isn’t that the practice for big financial institutions? e.g., 2008, the forgiveness of Covid loans, etc.

    2. If money lent out on credit is going to be lost every 10 years, who in his right mind would ever lend long money? You lend for a 30-year mortgage, in 10 years you lose it. The borrower uses the forgiven money to refinance a bigger house, and 10 years later you lose it again. Eventually even the taxpayer would figure out it was he, not the creditor, who was “forgiving” debt and put his foot down: No. Or would you not allow the taxpayer, even modest-income ones, to vote against decennial loan forgiveness? If that is “progressive”, then my distaste for progressives is sharpened.

      The best way not to be enslaved to debt is to not borrow money, FOMO be damned. There may not be free will but people do respond to incentives. 21% mortgage interest rates, as we got to in 1981, were a potent disincentive even to determinists. Mind you, houses were really cheap then. The high cost of mortgages tended to push down the prices that sellers could get. But houses were the only thing we bought on credit because they would (usually after 1981) appreciate. A credit-card balance at 24% for midnight beer goggles fruitlessly drunk long ago was just folly. The reason why credit-card interest is so high is because this debt does indeed have a high risk of default by debtors who decide unilaterally to become ex-“slaves.” 24% is enough to cover the loss and make money for the bank. The banks could make credit cards harder to get, but they like the transaction fees that billions of users pay even if they don’t run balances. You don’t work for free, either, I assume. If you don’t like bank profits, buy bank stocks. I guarantee your attitude will change. 🙂

      Mr. Vedder, on the other side of every loan from the debtor is the creditor. No one can force him to lend to people who already know they aren’t going to pay the loan back. The lender’s challenge is to identify those future deadbeats before he lends them the money, not after when it’s too late. It costs at a minimum 3% over the inflation rate — the historical real prime interest rate — to identify bad risks ahead of time and compensate for the ones you didn’t see. Student loans are no different. The interest rate reflects the risk of default. If it was “predatorily” high, another lender would lend for less. If you have no assets as security, no one will lend you an enormous pile of money unless they can be sure that your culture will hold you as a slave to it until you’ve paid it. You just have to.

    3. If the student loans are such a big problem (and I believe they are) why then is the government continuing it? Forgive all these debts and let more students borrow more money? No. Fix the complicated mess that is our overpriced higher education system. In the meantime, if you took out student loans (which I did), pay them back (I still am and I am 63 years old).

  12. I do not know all the trickery that is used to get people to borrow so much money and think they can pay it back. Allot of it is bad. Also the cost of this so-called education is criminal. Who benefits from this – in some ways the people getting the great paying jobs in the Colleges. It is sometime a case of i got mine you get yours.

    Another thing we forget with these loans is one very bad thing. There is no way out. There is no bankruptcy with these loans. That is what is criminal. Ask yourself, why is this. Every other type of loan or business gets bankruptcy but not these students. It is criminal.

    1. For additional information George Will has a piece in the Washington Post today titled, Colleges hide the truth about tuition.

    2. Once upon a time, student loans could be discharged in bankruptcy. But in the 1970s, some bright law student realized that as soon as he graduated from law school, all he had was a huge debt but no assets. Now was the time to declare bankruptcy and loose all his student debt, leaving the taxpayers to pay it. Other students saw his example, and they declared bankruptcy too as soon as they graduated. Every year, more and more students did this. Faced with this, Congress made student loans immune from bankruptcy. Most of these students had great job prospects. It was just a way to cheat the system. That’s what was criminal.

      1. That just makes no sense. The govt. program that backed all of this loan stuff did not take place until the Clinton administration. That congressional action is where the no bankruptcy came in and it got snuck into the bill. They did a two our investigation of this on Television a year or two ago. The guy finally ran it down and the clause was put in at the last minute with almost no one knowing about it. It was a guy in the administration. He was interviewed on the show.

        The fact is, there is no other place in the U.S. in business or loans where bankruptcy is not available and used. This is the only place. Your story about the 1970s has nothing to do with this. What is also criminal is your story.

        1. Whether Publilius has his precise facts straight is beside the point. If you can borrow large sums of money while you have no assets to risk losing in bankruptcy and can discharge the debt through that bankruptcy, that is a perverse incentive. It seems reasonable to insist that loans secured by no saleable assets at all should not be waved out of existence merely by the graduate being unable or unwilling to pay them back.

          In ordinary commercial and consumer bankruptcy, the debtor loses all his assets except the barrel he wears over his naked body, including equity in his house or business (other than tools of his trade to allow him to make a fresh start.) That’s an incentive to find a job to keep making the payments no matter what. A bank won’t lend money to a business that has no assets and makes no profit unless investors are willing to put up their own money to get the enterprise off the ground. Equity first, then debt.

        2. I went to college in the 1970s. There were lots of student loans available. They were offered by banks and other financial institutions. The US Government guaranteed repayment in exchange for a low interest rate. I had one myself for 3%. So when someone defaulted, the taxpayers paid it.

          As we got into the 1980s and more and more students started filing bankruptcy as soon as they graduated, there were lots of newspaper articles about the problem, saying if Congress didn’t do something, it would be the end of guaranteed student loans. These articles pre-date the internet so they’re probably not searchable online.

          1. There are lots of current articles on it.


            Why can’t people get rid of student loans through bankruptcy now?
            Although not impossible, discharging student loans in bankruptcy is difficult. Due to a 1976 law, student loans are not treated during bankruptcy proceedings like other forms of debt, such as credit card debt or auto loans. This policy stems from a federal commission on bankruptcy laws, which heard testimony that claimed the easy discharge of educational loans in bankruptcy could undermine federal student loan programs. Congress was concerned that students might borrow thousands of dollars from the federal government, graduate, declare bankruptcy to have their student loans discharged and never repay their educational debt.

  13. There’s a tremendous amount of misinformation out there about typical loan balances. For undergraduate degrees, nearly half of students at public and private non-profit universities graduate totally debt-free; for the 54% who take out loans, the mean debt is around $29,000.

    $29,000 is a lot if you have to pay it off right now, but it only costs about $4,000 per year to pay off on a ten-year schedule. The median 4-year graduate makes about $27,000 per year more than the median high school graduate. For most people, those loans pay for themselves many times over.

    For more data, check out the College Board’s “Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid” report.

    Also worth noting: Most young college graduates live in places where housing supply is highly inelastic, which means that freeing up some room in their budgets would result in them bidding up the price of housing even further. Much of the benefit of student loan cancellation would go to landlords and current homeowners.

    Finally, Biden’s attempt to unilaterally give away hundreds of billions of money at taxpayer expense without an act of Congress was an utterly egregious abuse of executive power, and the fact that he’s trying to do it again after the Court put him in his place is even more appalling. This isn’t quite Donald Trump bad, but it might be up there with Roosevelt’s court-packing scheme.

  14. If there is to be student loan forgiveness then let the colleges and predatory lending institutions pay and not the taxpayers. If the colleges take the hit then maybe they’ll just have to trim their bloated administration staff.

  15. “Forgiving some students but not earlier ones who borrowed seems unfair.”

    That sentiment would seem to also apply to the passive of legislation establishing free public higher education. But why should we feel such a strong obligation to maintaining the practices of the past, even when this interferes with more important goals (e.g. a public goods vision of the American economy, as many progressives advocate)?

  16. I had thought that it was only grumpy old gits of my generation who oppose this sort forgiveness. However, raising the issue with the significant others of our own children (late 20s-early 30s range that I thought this might appeal to) I encountered similar resistance. Their attitude being that nobody forced people to take loans, they themselves made life and education choices based upon what they would have to pay back, and they have worked hard to get the loans paid off. They may have made different choices had they known the money would be forgiven.

    1. It’s not just the grumpy old gits, Simon, it’s the working class people who paid off their loans AND the citizens who didn’t take out loans but were expected to cover, through taxes, the debts of those who went to college.

  17. I agree that student loan forgiveness is not a sustainable act, and, in theory, that it is inherently unfair. But I can not oppose it on the ‘I didn’t get that!’ theory. I didn’t, but I also didn’t have the level of loan debt that many other people do (help from parents and grandparent dying at a financially useful time, along with working my butt off at anything for a buck, allowed me to get out with low debt and pat it out quickly)

    My parents couldn’t understand why I needed to work. They paid for themselves, tuition and living, working on campus. I was getting a lot of help from them for tuition, so mostly I needed to make living. When they were in school, on campus tutoring could cover your nut (really. 1950. $5/hour for tutoring in campus, according to my mother, $200/trimester tuition at Stanford, ten hours a week left plenty of beer money)

    When I was in school (1980) tuition was more than ten times as much. Pay for on campus tutoring was minimum wage ($3.10, a huge jump from 1977…) There weren’t enough hours in the week to make my nut while still making class (42 hours/week, 52 weeks would break even, if there weren’t taxes). Living expenses also scaled out of proportion

    It is somewhere between the same and worse today. Even a public university tuition is $15K or more, and may be tighter with aid (loans are not aid) and scholarships than many private uni’s. Living expenses have also scaled out of proportion in many areas where the schools are located.

    This doesn’t include the for-profit ‘schools’ that often make extravagant, unjustifiable employment claims and are prices well above potential value.

    Is forgiveness wrong? I really can’t get behind either side. I am not 22 years old carrying $50K or $100K in debt

  18. According to The Daily Telegraph, in the UK:

    Undergraduates who begin their studies this autumn will be the first generation to face repaying their student loans until after they retire, analysis shows.

    This year’s freshers will be the first cohort to take out the Government’s new “Plan 5” loans, meaning that their debt will not be written off until 40 years after they have graduated, as opposed to 30 years previously.

    The same cohort will also have to begin paying their loans off earlier. While current graduates must start paying their debt back once they start earning £27,295 a year, students on Plan 5 loans will need to start their repayments once they are on a salary of £25,000.

    These changes mean that most graduates will make repayments past the Normal Minimum Pension Age of 55, while those who leave university in their mid or late twenties could be left making repayments past the current State Pension age of 66.

    Graduates with older “Plan 4” loans who were paid their first instalment before 1 August 2007 were able to write off their debt when they turned 65.

    The changes in the loan terms is a government response to the fact that a large proportion of those taking out student loans never earned enough to repay their loans in full.

  19. Before deciding how to pay for a university education, we should probably think about what percentage of the population actually needs to have one. Time was when only a small percentage went to university, a degree really meant something and universities had to charge the attendee to cover costs, but were not run as a profit-making enterprise. Gareth, above, mentions something that will seem like a fairy tale: there was a time when it was nearly free in the UK. The Attlee government did some good and some bad things, but one thing it got right was to say that if you were smart enough to get in, the government would assist with costs. Tuition was paid for everyone by the county in which you left secondary school, and a means-tested grant was given for each term you attended university. This varied from a full grant for people with poor or no parents, to a small one for people with rich parents. It worked because admission was competitive, and more intensely so for the more desirable subjects.
    This all came to an end with a different kind of socialism, that of Blair, who felt everyone should go to university, and to enable that he turned every local polytechnic and industrial arts college into a ‘university’ and then said no more grants, only loans to be paid back. Universities loved the extra income, the expansion of courses to be available for the dimmest of students, and degrees became mostly worthless, ensuring students who wanted a helpful qualification stayed on to do postgrad degrees.
    I don’t think my brother and I would have gone to med school if it were not for the grant system.

  20. I’m ok with student loan forgiveness especially when student loans can’t be easily discharged in bankruptcy and US education/economic culture pushes the idea of higher (college, graduate) education as the best way to achieve a good or high standard of living. The US fails teenagers and young adults by selling them on higher education that doesn’t translate into enough income to afford things like homes. Education is too expensive on students and we should look at reducing the education cost and burden. A high school diploma should be enough for the vast majority of the American workforce, with job guarantees for anyone who can work, with guarantees for living wages. If you can’t do any work, then we’ll take care of you. That’s the kind of society I want to live in. Let’s stop being slaves to the banks and money grubbing colleges and universities. I paid my dues of over $100K in student loans. It took 20 years and I’m fortunate I had the opportunity to devote a sizable chunk of my income to paying off that debt. Too many people aren’t as lucky as I am and I don’t see why they should suffer. Forgive the debt!

    1. And those of us whose kids get the employee tuition waiver should tread especially lightly.

      I could be persuaded that some needs-tested forgiveness of undergraduate loans is a good idea, but only if governments and public universities reform their funding and budget models (more public funding, lower tuition, less dependence on student loans). Without that reform the problem won’t be solved. A bonus is that such reform probably can’t be achieved solely through increased public funding, and might instead require cost saving by universities such as firing a lot of useless administrators. A risk is that universities might turn to generative AI for teaching and trim the budget by firing a lot of faculty members instead.

    2. I wonder if adults with no children will one day get tax benefits for that restraint (in search of a better word). I always laugh when I see/read the “10 things to help with climate change,” doesn’t matter the publication, liberal, center, conservative, never will you see: “don’t have kids.” And yet, solving that “problem” is perhaps the easiest; we’re the only species who can choose not to have kids (determinism notwithstanding)…yet evolution deems otherwise…just like why we love sweets, fat, narcotics and other unhealthy fun. (Not to say sex or kids are unhealthy fun.)

      1. Not having kids (which we aren’t: my sister and I have only two children between us and it took me two wives to have one child) is a terrible idea because there’ll be no one working to pay our old-age pensions and medical miracles. Even if you are funding your retirement with your own savings and investments, the income those investments will generate to pay for your keep depends on the productivity of the working generation. A bond or a stock share is only a promise of income and capital growth from economic activity. And cash depreciates as governments print more money under Modern Monetary Theory.

        Our children might pitch in directly to help their own parents, (if there weren’t so damn many parents in the picture queuing up for that granny suite!) but they won’t do squat for old people who didn’t have children themselves. Those childless old people ought to be obscenely wealthy, not having had child expenses compounding for 25 or 30 years…for each one. They don’t need extra money from government for not incurring those huge bills. Better make it last.

        The West’s one billion people choosing not to have children — not all childless people are childless by choice, of course — is a bit like the West’s slashing their standard of living by recklessly reducing CO2 emissions in other ways. The West (I think) is hoping to shame the other 7 billion people on the planet into following our moral lead and reducing their populations and their emissions. But what will more likely happen is that the rest of the world will watch what happens to us as our population ages and gets dangerously poorer first in energy and then in money, and they will decide the last thing they want to do is emulate that folly. They outvote us. They don’t have to do what we say, and they already aren’t. Population may fall in many countries — it is already in China — but emissions will reliably escalate as economic activity shifts from countries with scarce expensive energy to those with cheap reliable coal. Population is one little cog in the collective-action problem, insoluble by definition. ‘Nuff said.

  21. If you compare the tax money the U.S. gives to Big Energy, Big Military, Big Pharma, etc., this student loan forgiveness is a pittance. Why is that never a legitimate talking point? It’s not like there will be a new tax paying for student loan forgiveness…I tend to think this issue is a red herring.

  22. I could have gone to Berkeley free. Stanford cost $1,005/year. Yes, that’s about $10,000 in 2023 money, but free is still free in 2023 money. When all state universities again have free tuition, I will kvetch about not repaying loans.

  23. With most politics, how the topic is framed makes the difference. So, come up with plans for decreasing some of the interest on loans, if the original loan amount has been paid off.

  24. “If they made bad choices, that is their problem.”

    I think that is at the core. Of what? Well, capitalistic society, perhaps – the one Marx despised and Marxism seeks to overthrow – so there will be no problems when Utopia is reached.

    Is the loan thing a one-time corrective? Or is it one fraction of a turn of the revolution?

    Families might help their kids with the loan – but ah, that is private, and does not benefit society – and not everyone has such support – it is targeted for abolition by, well, Marx and Engels, et. al.

    I don’t know why they can’t just make the loan terms easier instead of paying it off (if I understand!).

  25. The cost of education has been skyrocketing, partly bec the govt is loaning out more an dmore money. Laws of economics: When more people can afford to buy something/more demand.—> price goes up. Unfortunately most of het extra cost is paying for administration, and not for facilities/teaching. My mom completed a master’s degree with less than 10k in debt. In contrast my master’s cost me more than 40k, and I borrowed the absolute minimum! And due to increased costs of living and more difficulties finding a job that paid a “living sustainable wage” I’m still paying back these loans 20 yrs later. I can understand the frustration over student loans. it almost seems like cruel and unusual punishment to saddle a 19 yo wtih 100k in debt which can keep them from qualifying for home loans and other credit later on. Of courrse it has been well meaning, but higher loan amounts simply resulted in higher education costs and less returns :-(. Something has to be done, but in my opinion, it should be curbing predatory lending practices.

  26. The students entered into a voluntary contract and therefore have a contractual obligation to pay back the loans. If there are extenuating circumstances, try to negotiate revised terms with the lender. If the lender has violated the contract, file a lawsuit. Otherwise, pay your debt.

  27. Prof. Coyne and other opponents of loan forgiveness have good arguments. However, I have read young US women with college degrees complaining that they feel “sterilized” by student debt because, as things stay now when it is too late for them to choose another course, they cannot afford children. It seems to me too cruel to have people not procreating because of financial problems, in one of the most developed countries in the world in the XXI century. In 20 years, these women may of course have paid off their debt but then they will have lost their fertility.
    Maybe the beneficiaries of loan forgiveness should receive some obligation in return.

  28. Arguments about the larger context around the cost of higher education and the systems in place that led to these skyrocketing costs and debt forgiveness as a solution – those I can appreciate. I cannot appreciate the argument that it’s unfair because people who came before did not get the same opportunity. According to that measure, progress is unfair by definition. Must we also give up on trying to create a cure for cancer because it will be unfair to those people who have already lost loved ones to the disease?

  29. My preferred resolution is that the federal gov. launch a 50-state class action lawsuit against universities on behalf of all students who can show that they were let down by the promises and high costs of university, whether it be by poor COVID policies or by failing to deliver quality due to paying their administrators more than they pay their faculty members. All relief should be proportionate to the degree of failure on the part of the universities that resulted in students being short changed.
    This is based partly on the basic idea that the universities can generally afford to pay out without going broke. And it obviously leaves the tax-payer out of the equation, perhaps barring legal costs.

  30. First, let me say that I am opposed (for all sorts of reasons) to ‘student loan relief’. However, it is all too true that tuition has risen dramatically over time. Tax revenues have soared in recent decades. Spending has soared even more. The gap has been met with ever rising tuition.

    A very closely related point is that the ratio of administrators to students (and faculty) has soared in recent years. Stanford provides a typical case in point. Stanford has 15,750 administrators, 2,288 faculty members, and 16,937 students.

    A long time ago, a degree in English from an elite school was considered to be a qualification for becoming a company president. That association (company president, degree) gave people the idea that if they got a degree, they might be company president too. Sadly, a degree in English might qualify a person to flip burgers these days.

    To some degree, this issue is a consequence of a perception that a young person ‘must’ get a college degree. Historically, this was not true. For example, the very famous Wright Brothers didn’t have college degree (they came from a very intellectual family, with very limited funds) and no one (back then) cared a lot either way. However, over time things changed. By the 1960s, another famous American, Chuck Yeager became the director of astronaut training. However, he was not eligible to become an astronaut because he had no college degree.

    Around 1980, I pointed out to my coworkers that my work had nothing to with my degree. They replied that “I would not have been hired without the degree”.

    The bottom line is that we have lots of people, going deeply into debt, for degrees that don’t pay much.

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