Home Cost of a Degree Student Loan Debt: Should the Federal Government Forgive All or Any of It?
Student Loan Debt: Should the Federal Government Forgive All or Any of It?

Student Loan Debt: Should the Federal Government Forgive All or Any of It?

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During the Democratic primary campaign for President, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders made no secret that they wanted to forgive student loan debt. Since President Biden’s election, both senators have called on President Biden to discharge student loan debt, which collectively stands at $1.7 trillion.

The senators (and their supporters) claim that President Biden has the legal authority to discharge student loan debt through an executive order. Whether or not he does is subject to debate.

If Biden does not, he would have to ask Congress to approve a massive discharge. No one is sure if he has the votes for approval, given the slim majority held by the Democrats in the Senate.

Let’s review the myriad issues surrounding the potential student loan discharge:

  • The high-dollar volume of loans borrowed is for graduate students (there are virtually no loan caps on graduate student borrowing). Nearly 40% of student loan debt is for grad students who only represent 15% of college students. Grad students usually end up with better-paying jobs, so why should they be “rewarded” with the cancellation of their loans?
  • There are existing loan forgiveness programs as well as income-based repayment plans that ultimately forgive debt (after 20-25 years of payments).
  • Forgiving student loan debt for borrowers from households with less than a certain level of income is unfair to those who borrowed whose loans are not forgiven.
  • Forgiving student loan debt does not resolve the problem that many students continue to borrow large sums of money to attend college. Should colleges be required to cap tuition and loans for degrees that lead to lower-paying jobs?
  • The problem with student loans is not with students who earn a degree, but rather with students who borrow and who do not earn a degree.
  • Is it fair to forgive outstanding loans and not do something for those who worked hard to pay off their debts?
  • Is it fair to forgive outstanding loans to those who borrowed and not provide something to taxpayers who did not attend college?
  • It’s not just students who borrow; it’s their parents who borrow, too. Should parent loan debt be eliminated as well?
  • From 2009-2014, there were a group of people who purposefully signed up for college to obtain Pell grants and loan funds and then dropped out. Why should their loans be forgiven?
  • Other than community colleges, there are few institutions that enable their students to graduate without student loan debt. Going forward, how can this situation be changed?

There are certainly more issues than those I’ve mentioned. The student loan debt issue is personal, and everyone’s story is different. I attended two private universities for undergrad and grad school and had student loans from both of them.

My siblings all attended public universities and did not have student loans. But all of us worked part-time jobs throughout college to pay for our living expenses. I can also relate to the student food desert situation.

My student loans forced me to defer purchasing my first house. At the same time, I believe my choice of institutions benefitted me in the long run. I was able to repay my student loans on time.

President Biden has stated that he wants to unify the country. He’s already deferred student loan payments for another eight months. If it were up to me, I would convene a presidential task force between now and then to surface all of the issues for a better understanding of how to resolve them in a way that satisfies as many people as possible. What would you do?

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Wally Boston Dr. Wallace E. Boston was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of American Public University System (APUS) and its parent company, American Public Education, Inc. (APEI) in July 2004. He joined APUS as its Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer in 2002. In September 2019, Dr. Boston retired as CEO of APEI and retired as APUS President in August 2020. Dr. Boston guided APUS through its successful initial accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in 2006 and ten-year reaccreditation in 2011. In November 2007, he led APEI to an initial public offering on the NASDAQ Exchange. For four years from 2009 through 2012, APEI was ranked in Forbes' Top 10 list of America's Best Small Public Companies. During his tenure as president, APUS grew to over 85,000 students, 200 degree and certificate programs, and approximately 100,000 alumni. While serving as APEI CEO and APUS President, Dr. Boston was a board member of APEI, APUS, Hondros College of Nursing, and Fidelis, Inc. Dr. Boston continues to serve as a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA), a member of the Board of Overseers of the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, and as a member of the board of New Horizons Worldwide. He has authored and co-authored papers on the topic of online post-secondary student retention, and is a frequent speaker on the impact of technology on higher education. Dr. Boston is a past Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the McDonogh School, a private K-12 school in Baltimore. In his career prior to APEI and APUS, Dr. Boston served as either CFO, COO, or CEO of Meridian Healthcare, Manor Healthcare, Neighborcare Pharmacies, and Sun Healthcare Group. Dr. Boston is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and Chartered Global Management Accountant. He earned an A.B. degree in History from Duke University, an MBA in Marketing and Accounting from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business Administration, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. In 2008, the Board of Trustees of APUS awarded him a Doctorate in Business Administration, honoris causa, and, in April 2017, also bestowed him with the title President Emeritus. In August 2020, the Board of Trustees of APUS appointed him Trustee Emeritus. In November 2020, the Board of Trustees announced that the APUS School of Business would be renamed the Dr. Wallace E Boston School of Business in recognition of Dr. Boston's service to the university. Dr. Boston lives with his family in Austin, Texas.

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