For many students, taking out federal student loans is one of the only options to afford schools like GW. Almost 40 percent of undergraduate students take out loans to complete their studies, slightly less than the national average.
The average student debt for those who attended private, not-for-profit universities like GW approach $33,000 upon graduation. Students burdened with loans, which often to take decades to repay, rightly worry about how long their debt will affect their lives. But some candidates vying for the presidency – Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. – to have propose plans that would eliminate student debt, a hot topic that has become a point of contention among the presidential candidates.
Eliminating student debt could have significant economic benefits, but some critics are rightly concerned. Economic experts say reducing student debt increase the economy by allowing the nearly 50 million people in debt to spend more money once they have finished their studies. But some economists say eliminating student debt ignores the larger issue of rising tuition fees and the potentially unfair advantages this could have on wealthier students who can afford to pay off their debt.
Plans like Warren’s and Sanders’s help us think in the right direction when it comes to college affordability, but those ideas aren’t the best way to end the student debt crisis. Before advocating for plans that would eliminate outstanding debt, candidates should weigh plans to reduce the cost of college and work to ensure low-income students receive financial aid first.
Concerns about debt cancellation surround student financial responsibility, as some people argue that students need to understand how much a school will cost and how much they are able to afford. Others have mentioned the plan will not solve the overall problem of rising tuition fees and that canceling student debt would unnecessarily benefit middle to upper class students who will not need to repay loans they can already afford to permit.
Critics say those who advantage most debt forgivers are those who have taken out the most loans – graduate students whose higher degrees could land them higher-paying jobs, making them more likely to repay their loans without debt forgiveness. Nor would getting rid of student debt now solve the real problem at hand – the to skyrocket cost of attendance. Look at GW alone – college price has gone up since the past many years.
Before applicants propose and support a plan to get rid of all college debt, they should consider plans to reduce the cost of attendance. Applicants should consider plans that are not regressive, such as a predictive income-based cancellation program that would cancel student debt for low-income graduates. Applicants must also offer plans to expand existing government options such as the Pell Grant and the Civil Service Loan Forgiveness Program.
Expanding aid through the Pell Grant and getting full aid at some universities would increase the amount of money students receive from the government to attend college and increase socio- economy in different institutions. Expanding the civil service loan forgiveness program would allow those entering the civil service to graduate and devote themselves to public service without repaying their loans. It is also more realistic to expand an existing program than to adopt an unprecedented change like student debt reduction. The income-based reimbursement and the PSLF, two existing government programs, have been extended in 2010, 2012 and 2015.
Applicants should focus on what caused the student debt crisis and not put a band aid on the problem by erasing student debt. Some candidates, like Sen. Cory Booker, DN.J., have propose more moderate plans that have a chance of having long-term impacts. Without getting to the root of the problem, any plan or solution will not stick and bring lasting change.
In theory, allowing the federal government to pay off all student debt would temporarily solve the student debt crisis and stimulate the economy. But applicants need to determine the cause of the problem and the programs we already have to fix it.
The Editorial Board is made up of Hatchet staff members and operates separately from the Newsroom. This week’s article was written by Opinion Editor Kiran Hoeffner-Shah and Contributing Opinion Editor Hannah Thacker based on conversations with The Hatchet Editorial Board, which is made up of the Editor-in-Chief assistant Natalie Prieb, general manager Leah Potter, design editor Olivia Columbus, sports editor Emily Maise and culture editor Sidney Lee.