“Student debt is essentially illegitimate.”
July 2, 2019 9:04 AM   Subscribe

 
Good.
posted by craven_morhead at 9:05 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Any chance they can make this retroactive for some members of GenX who are still struggling? Asking for a friend
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:09 AM on July 2 [30 favorites]


JUBILEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!
posted by kaibutsu at 9:09 AM on July 2 [12 favorites]


What about people who didn't have a chance to go to college yet have debt? What about rich people with student debt? What about people who worked to save up to avoid or minimize debt? The question isn't whether it's a good idea to cancel debt; the question is whether that's best use of money. Bernie Sanders Wants to Forgive All Student Debt. His Plan Doesn’t Make a Lot of Sense.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 9:14 AM on July 2 [9 favorites]


They don't want us smarter and richer, tho
posted by Reyturner at 9:15 AM on July 2 [3 favorites]


The question isn't whether it's a good idea to cancel debt; the question is whether that's best use of money.

I mean, sure, there's a finite amount of money available in the world, but I think that "relieve student debt" is falsely placed in opposition to several other good aims.

Also - rich people with student debt? Most rich people don't borrow money for school, but if we relieve student debt and a few rich people wind up benefiting along with the overwhelming proportion of those indebted who are low-income and working class, then... that's OK since for the most part it's an incredible service for the vast proportion of the indebted population who's not rich.
posted by entropone at 9:19 AM on July 2 [59 favorites]


Class of 2021, sucks to be you.
posted by Damienmce at 9:19 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Doctors and lawyers unencumbered with massive debt are less beholden to corporate overlords, and more willing to be intellectual laborers for the public good. Debt skews these professions in the US so badly, why would we want to avoid freeing them to pursue jobs they would want to do, rather than what they are forced to do?
posted by eustatic at 9:21 AM on July 2 [49 favorites]


What about people who didn't have a chance to go to college yet have debt?

My understanding is that, in the United States, student debt is not dischargeable in bankruptcy. Are there other forms of debt that also follow one through bankruptcy?

I've always thought of bankruptcy as the safety valve: when debt is too great, you have the not easy, but not impossible option to get relief and start again, like the Jubilee. But once certain forms of debt are excluded, that's dangerous.
posted by jb at 9:21 AM on July 2 [8 favorites]


If we're going to cancel the debt, then it seems to make sense to go the next step and say that whatever amount we used to say was the maximum for federal student loans is now your maximum federal grant.

But yeah, I 100% would have declared bankruptcy on my student loans five years ago if I could have. I'm on income-based repayment, but I'm barely actually making the interest, much less paying them down. They're 99.9% certain to be forgiving my principal. I wish they'd do it now and not after I've been paying interest for 15 more years.
posted by Sequence at 9:23 AM on July 2 [12 favorites]


> I mean, sure, there's a finite amount of money available in the world,

citation needed. there are a finite amount of resources in the world, but the interesting thing about money is that it is untethered from any underlying physical thing and is such effectively infinite.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 9:25 AM on July 2 [21 favorites]


I think pursuing student debt relief is going to slaughter the left come election time. All my midwestern relatives hear is "college kids who thought they were too good to work an honest job are going to get free money from people like me who did the right thing and worked an honest job." This will get them to the polls even faster than fear of a brown person taking their guns or a woman acting above her station.
posted by Shutter at 9:26 AM on July 2 [21 favorites]


Canceling all college debt will make us smarter and richer

DING! And why conservatives will never let it happen. Same reason as health care. A smart, healthy working class is more likely to rise up and kick their lazy asses and less likely to work for peanuts to help the rich raise their entitled young.
posted by terrapin at 9:29 AM on July 2 [7 favorites]


I'm OK with relieving the ridiculous burden of a mortgage and no home...what concerns me is the timing of it. GenX gets the raw end of the deal more often than not. I imagine that the Social Security I've paid into since I was a teenager will be the next thing to go away if things continue the way they have. That is, unless we elect politicians that think strengthening SS is a better option than raiding it...

Buying a house is not realistic at this point. So giving a leg up to the kids is great, but what if that leg up means I get left behind? This is tricky...yes, there is some selfishness here (and I don't want my kids to have to go into debt for college, either)...are the kids going to do right by us?
posted by Chuffy at 9:29 AM on July 2 [2 favorites]


The biblical parable of the workers in the vineyard comes to mind when I think on this discussion.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:32 AM on July 2 [12 favorites]


I think pursuing student debt relief is going to slaughter the left come election time. All my midwestern relatives hear is "college kids who thought they were too good to work an honest job are going to get free money from people like me who did the right thing and worked an honest job." This will get them to the polls even faster than fear of a brown person taking their guns or a woman acting above her station.

I personally doubt that most people are actually motivated to do something they otherwise wouldn't do out of a general feeling of "kids these days", since it's exactly the sort of thing people love to complain about but not really do anything to combat. Also, the flip side of the potential that this might motivate conservatives to vote more than they already do is that delivering concrete goods to younger people is almost certainly a good way to get them to vote, and I suspect that there are a lot more young non-voters with student debt who could be motivated to do so to solve a major problem in their lives than there are older conservatives who typically don't vote but would just to spite younger people.
posted by Copronymus at 9:33 AM on July 2 [8 favorites]


> the concept of student debt cancellation of any kind has already drawn fire, with some saying they don’t support policies that benefit the children of billionaires

What kind of billionaire's kid has student debt?
posted by rlio at 9:39 AM on July 2 [26 favorites]


It's fucking mindboggling to me that people will actually say out loud and unironic and unashamed that they think their own individual suffering means that everyone who comes after them needs to suffer too or it's "not fair". I've spent a horrifying amount of money on healthcare over the last decade and the thought of others not having to go through that even for a single second is deeply and sincerely something to fucking live for, not something to resent like a petulant child. Why should student debt be any different?

dear god human society was a mistake
posted by poffin boffin at 9:40 AM on July 2 [147 favorites]


Agreed. There are plenty of people who were supposed to retire in 2008 who couldn't because the stock market crashed, among many similar examples. Shit happens. It's not a reason to NOT enact a sensible and beneficial policy.
posted by Autumnheart at 9:45 AM on July 2 [6 favorites]


GenX gets the raw end of the deal more often than not.

yeah, there are just not as many of us, and that changes the political calculus. but i'm fine with it, forgive the younger people's debt, i wouldn't be bitter.

I really worry about means testing in the USA, as it seems to create its own opposition, and that opposition turns to white supremacy, given the racialized wealth distribution of the united states. I think this would have happened with the ACA even without a black president. I feel like this is what happened to public housing. Fuck it. buy out the Tea Partiers.
posted by eustatic at 9:47 AM on July 2 [5 favorites]


which means every single outstanding student loan, federal or private, would be wiped out.

I think I might be the Oldest Millenial (unless there will be a "there can be only one" style sudden death tournament, in which case I happily rescind my claim to the thrown), so like...there have got to be plenty of GenXers who still have outstanding student loans which would be forgiven by this legislation? Or am I not understanding this correctly?

Because literally no part of that is bad, except for the Highlander part I made up.
posted by schadenfrau at 9:48 AM on July 2 [16 favorites]


are the kids going to do right by us?

almost by definition we have to do right by them first
posted by eustatic at 9:48 AM on July 2 [14 favorites]


My understanding is that, in the United States, student debt is not dischargeable in bankruptcy. Are there other forms of debt that also follow one through bankruptcy?

I am not a lawyer but yeah.

You typically have to pay debts to governments (many kinds of taxes and regulatory fines and/or fees associated with illegal acts must be paid, but not all).

You have to pay your child support and related debts (called domestic support obligations).

You generally have to pay debts that secure your property, OR you have to give that property back (meaning you can't keep your house or car without paying the payments for it).

You have to pay some judgments that you owe because you lost a lawsuit, but it depends what the lawsuit was about. Generally, if you do something bad, you have to pay, but if you do something that is more of a morally neutral fuckup, then you can discharge. DUI that leads to injury or death? You'll probably be paying. Assault? Ditto. Slip and fall on your porch? Probably not.

There are also rules about debt that you incur in order to pay these kinds of debts off. So if you use a credit card to pay your taxes, you might not be able to discharge that credit card debt --- it's complicated.

There are also rules about debt that you incur when you already know you won't be able to pay your debts (you can't knowingly take on debt that you won't pay, although this can be hard to catch/prove).

There are probably more but this gives you the general idea.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:49 AM on July 2 [3 favorites]


citation needed. there are a finite amount of resources in the world, but the interesting thing about money is that it is untethered from any underlying physical thing and is such effectively infinite.


oh right. if i remember my Graeber, then... money IS debt? and thus is helpfully infinite? Which i guess bolsters my point, so score one for accidentally being wrong in the right way.
posted by entropone at 9:52 AM on July 2 [2 favorites]


I mean for many people their retirement plan is socialism, so...yes, I think the kids do want to do right by everyone? Sometimes I personally think they're wrong about their methods or how they characterize/understand stuff, but like, the one thing the lefty youth is pretty freaking consistent about is wanting to do right by everyone. Like that is their thing. And it is an admirable thing.
posted by schadenfrau at 9:52 AM on July 2 [12 favorites]


> GenX gets the raw end of the deal more often than not.

yeah, there are just not as many of us, and that changes the political calculus. but i'm fine with it, forgive the younger people's debt, i wouldn't be bitter.


Oh, co-signed; for the record my asking about Gen-X was a "yes and" and not a "but what about".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:55 AM on July 2 [5 favorites]


From the Arsenal of Democracy show notes above which points out that the cost of public college going up is mostly due to cuts in state funding--I'm curious about how a federal/state partnership will/won't work for making public college debt free.

I live in a state with, surprise, one of the lowest per capita funding of the state system, and thus, one of the highest in-state tuition costs and student debt on graduation. (With bonus demographic issues meaning declining enrollment and tuition revenues.) And it looks like that's not going to change any time soon (in fact, the governor just vetoed a budget with more education funding)

Does Warren or anyone have more details about how this would work? I'm envisioning the Medicaid expansion all over again: some sort of federal matching program where blue states buy in, red states don't.

This is not to say I think this is a bad idea. I think it's a great idea, and I want it to happen! But I am genuinely wondering about the details here and how state buy-in would be forced. (Because I'm assuming we're not jumping to full federal control of all state systems. Or are we?)
posted by damayanti at 9:56 AM on July 2


When I hear what the tuition rates were in the 70s and 80s, I think that it would be a tiny drop in the bucket to refund all tuition paid by everyone who is still living. Please pay off my peers' 5 digit debts, my younger cousins' 6 digit debts and I will personally refund my parent the roughly $999 per year they paid to get their Master's Degree.
posted by soelo at 9:57 AM on July 2 [33 favorites]


What about rich people with student debt?

It would be easier and more efficient to forgive all student debt and raise income or wealth taxes than it would be to impose a graduated debt-forgiveness regime.
posted by This time is different. at 10:04 AM on July 2 [14 favorites]


Getting mad about the possibility of a rich person getting their debt forgiven is the same as getting mad that someone might get welfare who doesn’t deserve it. Don’t hold everyone back because someone, somewhere might be able to live like a debt-forgiveness queen.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 10:06 AM on July 2 [61 favorites]


Probably the only convincing argument that I have heard against this is that it would be a huge economic stimulus, so we should save it for a recession. I don't know if I buy it completely, but it makes some sense.

Really, we could also just refinance student loans to keep payments and interest much more reasonable and at the same time, crack down on shitty exploitative schools that use federal loans like a piggy bank. Would probably do quite a lot of good for a lot of people.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:08 AM on July 2 [3 favorites]


Universality prevents means testing from becoming austerity by another name.

Probably the only convincing argument that I have heard against this is that it would be a huge economic stimulus, so we should save it for a recession. So in ....*checks watch* 4-9 months?
posted by The Whelk at 10:08 AM on July 2 [20 favorites]


Well OK, it’s not exactly the same. Anti-welfare arguments are super racist! But my broader point is that the hypothetical edge cases are great tools for preventing progress.

Otherwise that was a bad analogy.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 10:09 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


And if you're really into making sure the rich don't freeload, the universal forgiveness + tax increase has the additional benefit that the wealthy pay into the system regardless of whether or not they took out loans. Instead of asking "What about the rich people with student debt escaping payments they can afford under a universal forgiveness program?" you should ask "What about the rich people who don't have student debt escaping payments they can afford under a graduated program?"
posted by This time is different. at 10:09 AM on July 2 [5 favorites]


Another GenXer chiming in here. I took out my first student loan in August 1990 and finally paid them off in August 2016, and only managed that because we received a small inheritance after my in-laws died that allowed us to wipe out our other debt.

I am 100000% in favor of forgiving all extant student debt for everyone. The "I suffered so everyone else has to, too" mentality is one of the top 10 worst character traits in the American psyche. It is precisely because I suffered that I don't want anybody else to suffer, too.

the cost of public college going up is mostly due to cuts in state funding
Such as the Governor of Alaska who just cut 41% of the state appropriations for the University of Alaska system. These cuts will undoubtedly force many Alaska students who would've otherwise stayed in-state to seek their degrees out-of-state, which will be more expensive, leading to -- guess what -- more student debt.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 10:13 AM on July 2 [24 favorites]


Probably the only convincing argument that I have heard against this is that it would be a huge economic stimulus, so we should save it for a recession. So in ....*checks watch* 4-9 months?

Honestly, maybe, yeah. And it might make it easier to get it through Congress. That is not to discount the suffering that people are experiencing now, which is really important. But the timing might make a big difference in a few different ways. Regardless, it's worth talking about it and shifting the Overton window hard in favor of forgiveness.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:14 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Another GenXer chiming in. Left college in 1998. Paid off the last of my loans in 2012.

No objection to giving existing student debtors relief of some kind, incliding a write off. BUT, the Sanders plan for it will still leave the higher education tuition bubble free to inflate some more. And it really needs to be popped, the sooner the better.

We're still arranging for 18 year olds to bid up the price of a positional good, using borrowed money. That's about as bubbly as it gets, and it needs to stop.
posted by ocschwar at 10:16 AM on July 2 [10 favorites]


Universality also, frankly, helps a lot politically. There are a lot of doctors, lawyers and MBAs who would benefit from this and getting their (our, really) support is probably worth the money. On top of the fact that some of these professionals have valuable skills that could be really useful but we are hamstrung by being hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:17 AM on July 2 [7 favorites]


People also really like means testing because then there are no rich people around to complain when the people who get [x program or service] are treated like dirt or lied to.

Having everyone in the same boat helps keep the boat spic and span and upright. If you're wondering why so many public colleges and universities are high-quality, consider the fact that the middle class and wealthy are allowed to attend them, too.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:20 AM on July 2 [7 favorites]


Please. Please? My wife's student loans are over $600 a month and going to go up because of graduated repayment. We're doing okay but gods is that a fucking lodestone.
posted by Caduceus at 10:26 AM on July 2 [4 favorites]


I lived in shitty apartments with roommates and worked like hell, plowing all my earnings into my loans, and paid them off a year ago. I will still embrace everyone whose debt is cancelled and feel genuine happiness for them.

Even if they are relatively wealthy, or "comfortable", "affluent", whatever you want to call them. They won't be forced to take that finance/corporate law job if they don't want to. They don't have to become handmaidens to the truly rich and tie their loyalties to them. If you must have an argument in economic terms, I expect (though I'm no expert) that the marginal utility argument about how a $10 gift would be a lot more helpful to someone experiencing poverty than to someone of greater means also applies in reverse: that forgiving $60k of student debt will do less to uplift someone who grew up in a household making $2-300k per year than someone from a household making less than $100k per year.

Now, what can we do to get rid of educational debt for the future?
posted by Grimp0teuthis at 10:31 AM on July 2 [9 favorites]


citation needed. there are a finite amount of resources in the world, but the interesting thing about money is that it is untethered from any underlying physical thing and is such effectively infinite.

I think maybe when you drop a hot take like 'lol money is infinite' maybe you should provide some citations as well. Fiat currencies aren't backed by physical goods, but they are constrained by a number of factors and are not 'effectively infinite'. I'm all for forgiving student debt, but there is totally an economic cost associated with it.
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 10:34 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


But there might also be an economic benefit. And that benefit might outweigh the cost, even for wealthy people, in the medium or long term. Or even the short term.
posted by Zalzidrax at 10:59 AM on July 2


I was pretty careful with money and got through undergraduate and two Master’s programs with about $10K in debt, which I paid off pretty fast. Some of that was luck of going to school when states still supported Higher Ed, some was work. I would not begrudge today’s students a chance to get degrees mostly debt-free, too. That’s just being civil.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:01 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Okay, some napkin math:

Let's say we institute a program effective today that grants the greater: forgiveness of one's current student debt, $50,000 if you went to college, or $30,000 if you did not. This last figure would be a concession to either economically better oneself or to make up economic opportunities missed.

US attainment of a bachelor's degree is roughly 37%, I'm going to round it to 40% and then round down the "forgiveness of current debt" to the $50,000 category. So 40% of eligible participants would get $50,000, 60% would get $30,000. Therefore, the average recipient would receive $38,000.

Who is eligible? Roughly 55% of the population is between 21 and 64, that seems like a good rough figure. The latest estimate of the US population is 329,072,188, 55% of that is roughly 180M people.

$38,000 times 180M people is 6.84 trillion dollars. For comparison, the US Federal budget was $4.1T expended in 2018, and the US GDP was $20.236T.

If my forgiveness plan were run across 10 years, that would be $684 billion per year, or about 3% of the GDP. It would be about equivalent to doubling the current budget deficit, if taxes were not increased.

Current and future college students would be covered by free college education rather than forgiveness/reimbursement.

Such an economic stimulus would drastically increase tax revenues, even if tax rates did not change. People would be able to buy houses and cars. Millennials might kill fewer industries.

Basically, the napkin math shows that it's not nothing, but it's not close to impossible either. The 2003-2010 Iraq War was estimated to have cost $1.1T, and that was effectively money incinerated, not money reinvested in the US people.
posted by explosion at 11:14 AM on July 2 [8 favorites]


Huh. So 44 Bezoses then.
posted by avalonian at 11:18 AM on July 2 [4 favorites]


The problem with tuition free college is that it isn't at all a universal, in the sense of something like health care which virtually everyone will have require at some point in their lives, many people simply will not attend college even if it were free due to any number of personal issues around ability/interest, family need, emotional difficulties, and lack of adequate preparation due to their early years.

Access to college also isn't like access to health care, where the outcome is directly related to receiving care. College is simply a hurdle some face in hopes of bettering their job prospects. It isn't an end in itself for most. Getting free access to college will certainly help some who otherwise wouldn't have the same opportunities for better jobs after graduating, but since college doesn't create jobs, other than more teaching and secondary gigs around the schools themselves, the market for more graduates isn't one that will likely prove to be an advantage for all as it increases competition, doesn't improve the outside job situation, and potentially creates an increased demand for higher degrees to differentiate students from each other or places more emphasis on where one went to school as universities are not seen as equal.

The issue of schools being selective means the opportunities from having a degree won't be distributed equally. Much like charter schools, which use something of a university model for choosing their students, selectivity gives some schools advantages over others and leaves some degrees in the same fields worth less than others. Supporting selectivity in colleges while arguing against it in grade and high schools misses the similarities for the allure of the ideal of "an education".

The people best positioned to succeed will receive added help of, what? 30 grand or so? that then also rewards them by getting the best shot at higher paying jobs once they graduate while those who started off in worse situations get nothing and have even less chance at getting a good paying job later due to increases low ranked degree holders trying to find work that employers can just use as a hurdle to entry level positions that wouldn't otherwise need a degree for the requirement of skills involved. In that sense it may actually increase the disparity between the better off and worse off rather than ameliorate it, even as some individuals may gain that otherwise wouldn't.

That universities are giant money pits and little is being talked about to change that, other than in vague terms of "holding them accountable", as if once the money started flowing and students started expecting free college anything could be changed. Without addressing the problems of the university systems, which are too numerous to even begin to dig into here, promising free tuition is dumping money into a pit without much chance of accountability for a system that clearly already needs it.

None of that is to say that there isn't a need to address the loan crisis or help those who can't otherwise afford to go to college to be able to go when there is some purpose to it other than simply making it high school+, but there first needs to be more concerted effort to improve early childhood education, making public schools better in preparing all students for adulthood, removing the selectivity of universities, and working to make degrees an unnecessary hurdle for jobs that don't require specialized training. If people want to get an education for its own sake, that's great, but that isn't what colleges are really for anymore, which is why this discussion arises. So it's time to stop thinking of them as hallowed ground for thinkers and more as just institutes of career preparation and dump all the added froufrou that's been built up over the generations as that era is long gone.

Zero interest loans, the amount made in employment after graduating determining the amount one owes to the college, breaking up universities to be smaller and more efficient and making them unable to choose between any students that have a high school degree other than by lottery and thus forcing the schools to compete in terms of outcome rather than exclusivity of access would be some ideas, but whatever is done, simply dumping money into the current system is not going to lead to the results that people seem to imagine for many, many reasons.
posted by gusottertrout at 11:20 AM on July 2 [7 favorites]


Such an economic stimulus would drastically increase tax revenues, even if tax rates did not change.

This is exactly the excuse the Republicans use whenever they cut taxes. I don't believe it generally turns out to be true, but you don't find out for a while, and by then everybody has forgotten and we've ratcheted into a new normal of wasting more money and being unable to afford more things.

I am skeptical that it would be true here, either. Not to say that this is a bad idea, but let's be honest about how much it'll cost.
posted by spacewrench at 11:24 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Most zero sum economic arguments are bad, because there are factors that can make 1.6 trillion dollars spent on one thing more beneficial to the country's welfare than the same 1.6 trillion dollars spent in another thing. The "thing" you're spending it on does, in fact, matter.

At the same time, there is a "we must do something, this is something, therefore we must do this" aspect to a one-time cancellation of a specific kind of debt as compared to other ways of spending the same resources. Comparing the $1.6T for student loan forgiveness to building $1.6T more in aircraft carriers or whatever is an easy comparison -- comparing it to $1.6T worth of funding to other people who actually need the help is another. (Yes, I know Sanders has other plans, including increasing funding for early education, but that's funded separately.)

I think this post at Crooked Timber makes the case pretty well about the misplaced priorities here. The amount of help he's offering to higher ed borrowers is on the order of 40 times the amount he's offering to improve education at lower levels, even though resources directed to the latter will help a much larger and more diverse segment of the population. There are questions as to how much money can be thrown at K-12 before we see diminishing returns, but I'd suggest were not nearly there yet, and that the proposal to forgive post-secondary borrowers' debt needs to be judged on the same criteria. That analysis can (and should) include the non-monetary benefits of educating for education's sake, but even if it does, I have a hard time believing that 40:1 is the correct ratio of help to borrowers vs. help for needy K-12 students.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:27 AM on July 2 [9 favorites]


People also really like means testing because then there are no rich people around to complain when the people who get [x program or service] are treated like dirt or lied to.

This is one of the reasons I support universal free college rather than universal free community college alone. I don't think we'd have free community college for very long on its own. Even if one is worried about the significantly greater expense of universal free college of all kinds, it's much more politically durable than a program that middle and upper class voters (incorrectly) see as only benefiting the poor.

Universal free college is open to the objection that it's not really universal because it's only available to people who went to college. I have to note that (until I saw gusottertrout's comment on preview) I've only seen raised by people supporting less universal alternatives like graduated forgiveness or community college only, but there's something to it if the alternative is direct cash payments to everyone.

That said, I take some of gusottertrout's concerns as reasons for universal free college even if we also have a universal basic income. The federal government has long used access to its loans as a means of directing college policies. We wouldn't see even token movements to student privacy or gender justice if FERPA and Title IX violations didn't put loan eligibility---and therefore the college's tuition income---at risk. This was some of the idea behind the Obama administration's reporting requirements that forced colleges to disclose things like student loan default rates.
posted by This time is different. at 11:28 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


US attainment of a bachelor's degree is roughly 37%

Quick note that student loan debt is not only a problem for people who attained degrees, and that it's often even more burdensome for those who didn't than those who did.
posted by asperity at 11:28 AM on July 2 [20 favorites]


you can also restructure everyones student loan debt. Make it dischargeable in bankruptcy , and/or income based repayment. The options arent limited to the status quo or a jubilee. Also like healthcare, education funding reform without some method of price control is spitting in the wind.

Ultimately loan forgiveness becomes a pretty big subsidy to the middle class, which isn't bad per se, but you'd rather transfer payments take a more progressive form.
posted by JPD at 11:28 AM on July 2 [5 favorites]


This is exactly the excuse the Republicans use whenever they cut taxes.

No, it isn't. This is the rationale behind the Bush tax credit, and that one had bi-partisan support, unlike most tax cuts which are aimed at primarily the rich.

Direct stimulus, especially to the lower and middle class (who are much more likely to spend it immediately) is well understood to be the most efficient way to stimulate the economy. It just so happens that it's also one of the policies that is easiest to attack from puritanical and racist standpoints.

Quick note that student loan debt is not only a problem for people who attained degrees

You are correct, this was rough napkin math based off of Google-able figures meant only to give a sense of scale with regard to what such a program might cost. If it's off by a factor of 2, that shouldn't impact the conversation that much.
posted by explosion at 11:31 AM on July 2 [5 favorites]


Such an economic stimulus would drastically increase tax revenues, even if tax rates did not change.
...
I don't believe it generally turns out to be true


Student loan payments (public or private) are tax deductible in the US. Instead of that money being exempt from taxes, it will now be taxable.
posted by soelo at 11:34 AM on July 2


here's an angle i don't see brought up much. some of us are just not going to pay off our loans. whether it's because we're unable to or simply unwilling to. it's not that there is a student debt strike (yet!), but there is a growing awareness among millennials that it's basically impossible to ever pay off our student debts. so why bother? or if tragedy strikes, or if you lose your job, and you have to chose between food or rent or your student loans? what happens then? are there any public statistics on non payment? is that number rising?
posted by JimBennett at 11:44 AM on July 2 [9 favorites]


Best argument for making any student debt cancellation universal, from the Truthout article beginning the FPP:
In the only context where we’ve seen large amounts of student debt canceled — 50,000 former students who attended for-profit colleges with widespread fraud — advocates called for automatic and universal cancellation, in order to ensure no one was left out. Instead, the Department of Education insisted that every former defrauded student apply individually, even though the Department itself took action against illegal acts by for-profits like Corinthian Colleges, Inc. That meant that many of the 500,000 students who attended Corinthian historically didn’t even know they could apply for relief (only 218,366 students from any school have applied for debt cancellation).
Universality across debtors (even if it's not full-balance cancellation and is capped at $50k or whatever) is likely the best way to catch the people most in need of debt relief. Most of us with the really ridiculously high loan balances (hi there!) are also likelier to be aware of new debt policy that affects us.
posted by asperity at 11:44 AM on July 2 [2 favorites]


That universities are giant money pits

Universities are also huge engines for research, information creation and preservation, economic production, and technological innovation. And speech. So, you know, woah there.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:54 AM on July 2 [23 favorites]


Making student loans dischargable in bankruptcy would be a nice first step. There is zero justification for making student loans non-dischargable other than "Predatory lenders really want to get their money no matter what"
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 11:56 AM on July 2 [6 favorites]


> Universality across debtors (even if it's not full-balance cancellation and is capped at $50k or whatever) is likely the best way to catch the people most in need of debt relief. Most of us with the really ridiculously high loan balances (hi there!) are also likelier to be aware of new debt policy that affects us.

All else being equal, I'm generally a proponent of universal benefits, but this seems like a red herring to me. There's no reason that targeted / non-universal relief has to be done in an opt-in way that relies on people applying. Much like how the IRS already basically knows what most people owe, the feds have an enormous amount of data on student loan borrowers, particularly since the early 2000s when the federal government took on a more direct role in lending. A complicated application process for relief, or any application process at all, seems unnecessary.

It's certainly possible for targeted / non-universal relief to be done in ways that leave some deserving folks out, and the political benefits of universality in getting any policy to become law need to be considered, but I don't think the need for paperwork is a good argument for universality. Often the paperwork serves some other purpose, like dissuading people from getting benefits they're entitled to, or propping up the tax prep industry.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:57 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Forgiving student debt may increase the value of real estate as it's one item drastically affecting most people's debt to income that they use to qualify for mortgages.
posted by typecloud at 12:04 PM on July 2 [3 favorites]


If student loans become dischargeable in bankruptcy, I will declare bankruptcy the second the law takes effect. I suspect a lot of people will do the same. That seems a lot like a debt jubilee, except unevenly distributed because not everyone will know it’s an option, and they’ll have to weigh it against negative consequences.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 12:04 PM on July 2 [5 favorites]


I'd bet my money on f-society before government reform.
posted by slogger at 12:05 PM on July 2


I don't think the need for paperwork is a good argument for universality. Often the paperwork serves some other purpose, like dissuading people from getting benefits they're entitled to, or propping up the tax prep industry.

I think we agree: I'm suggesting that making any potential debt relief opt-in is a bad idea and that additional paperwork would be needlessly burdensome. Much like US tax filing requirements already are. I should've clarified that I mean both universal and automatic for everyone affected.
posted by asperity at 12:09 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


As the Guardian article points out, this proposal is a smaller transfer of wealth from the rich to the (lower) middle class than the Trump tax cuts are a transfer of wealth from the middle class to the rich. It's a start, but if you even want to keep wealth distribution the same, you need to be more aggressive.

And in bargaining, you always need to start by asking more than you expect to get. Even if all you want to get a solid amount of debt relief for the most needy, it's perfectly reasonable to start by proposing debt relief for all.
posted by Zalzidrax at 12:11 PM on July 2 [3 favorites]


My apologies to proponents of Student loan debt forgiveness. I also am for this, however, I'm a boomer, with $100,000 in outstanding student debt (It was $50,000 at graduation in 2001).
So yeah, I'm the guy some of you would want to say no to.
Right now my plan is to die owing, most, if not all of it, as an incentive for those against to rethink their position. I have no kids or a wife you could foist this on so, fuck you, debtors. You get to eat this one. I will have to start paying something, soon, so they don't take my social security, which it is my understanding, they're quit happy to do.
God bless America (now legally enforceable!)
posted by evilDoug at 12:14 PM on July 2 [3 favorites]


Wouldn't the move to take out a loan dis-chargeable by bankruptcy to pay off the student loan, then declare bankruptcy defaulting on the new loan?
posted by mikelieman at 12:18 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


So yeah, I'm the guy some of you would want to say no to.

I mean, I assumed a vanishingly small number of Boomers would still be paying off student loans, I cut off the elderly because their college back in the day was much cheaper, but that was napkin math. Pay it all off. Every last one. Even the millionaires, if for some reason they're carrying student debt.
posted by explosion at 12:23 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Wouldn't the move to take out a loan dis-chargeable by bankruptcy to pay off the student loan, then declare bankruptcy defaulting on the new loan?

No one will give you this loan unless you don't need it. Banks are not dumb!

Student loans usually represent the most amount of money anyone will lend to you without it being secured by property. If this is not the case, it is probably because your income and/or assets are too substantial for bankruptcy to be an option. I guess if you had the income/assets/credit score you could do something like this, then quit your job or something, then wait around a while so it doesn't look like fraud (it would probably be fraud), and then declare bankruptcy, missing out on years of income, ruining your credit and limiting your earning potential and ability to access credit for years, possibly forever. But that is probably not a great idea to do on purpose.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:28 PM on July 2 [3 favorites]


here's an angle i don't see brought up much. some of us are just not going to pay off our loans. whether it's because we're unable to or simply unwilling to. it's not that there is a student debt strike (yet!), but there is a growing awareness among millennials that it's basically impossible to ever pay off our student debts. so why bother?

Because if you refuse to pay your student loans you're effectively tanking your credit rating forever and your wages will be garnished until you die, including your social security income. If you never plan to buy a home, buy a new car or use any other type of consumer credit, and never work a job that reports income to the IRS or use your social security benefits, you can just not bother to repay it, but I think the reasons why people don't default on their loans is pretty clear.
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 12:31 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


Also, again, not a lawyer, but student loans are dischargeable (sp) in bankruptcy if you can convince the judge to let you do it. But filing for bankruptcy is not cost or risk free and if your circumstances are that dire, you’re probably already paying little or nothing via some form of IBR.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:35 PM on July 2


Because if you refuse to pay your student loans you're effectively tanking your credit rating forever and your wages will be garnished until you die, including your social security income. If you never plan to buy a home, buy a new car or use any other type of consumer credit, and never work a job that reports income to the IRS or use your social security benefits, you can just not bother to repay it, but I think the reasons why people don't default on their loans is pretty clear.

i know? that's part of the reason why i brought it up? because all of that is fucking inhumane.
posted by JimBennett at 12:35 PM on July 2 [3 favorites]


My students loans just went over the 90k mark, thanks almost 7% interest! Kid Ruki graduates high school next year, so we have her debt to look forward to as well. (My parents' rule was that they would pay for college as long as I did well. I flunked out after one semester. As it turned out, my initial college failure was in large part because I had undiagnosed narcolepsy, but I'm not bitter at all, no.)

I'm just really hoping to get it discharged via disability. I still need to get my official diagnosis and it's an achingly slow process and I have this perfectly rational fear that DeVos is going to decide that permanent disability is not a valid discharge reason because, you know, the cruelty is the point.
posted by Ruki at 12:38 PM on July 2 [7 favorites]


Also, again, not a lawyer, but student loans are dischargeable (sp) in bankruptcy if you can convince the judge to let you do it.

If you have federal student loans it's going to be extremely difficult, if not impossible. For most people they're effectively not dischargeable and have been since the bankruptcy laws were changed in 2005, even though there are always exceptions to the rule.
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 12:40 PM on July 2 [3 favorites]


But filing for bankruptcy is not cost or risk free and if your circumstances are that dire, you’re probably already paying little or nothing via some form of IBR.

Income-based repayment plans make me insane and are completely usurious. If anything, they should be the catalyst for the elimination of existing student debt. If you take the average amount of student loans for a 4 year public college (~26k), graduate with a 30,000 dollar a year job and repay your loan on an IBR, you'll pay 36k on your loan vs 32k for a conventional loan repayment. The kicker is that it's regressive, so if you only make 20,000 a year, you'll pay 40k on your loan.

You can calculate this yourself using the Student Loan repayment calculator here.
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 12:59 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


So I was just going through some stuff from my Mom's house and found a bill from Penn State in 1982. In-state tuition was $531 a semester for the branch campuses or $1400 in adjusted dollars. The current in-state tuition is $6,300 a semester for that same branch campus, so 4.5x more in real dollars. I was out of state so I paid twice that but even so I could work construction during the summer and with overtime basically cover tuition. I had about a couple of grand in loans to cover rent and food.

I don't think that most Boomers remember how fucking cheap school was back then.
posted by octothorpe at 1:13 PM on July 2 [9 favorites]


When you're looking at that, Fidel Cashflow, make sure you note that there are a whole bunch of different income-driven repayment plans there. The oldest one is basically the worst, but a lot of the more recent borrowers aren't on the original IBR plan. They still aren't great. But on the other hand, my alternative is an amount of debt that would literally leave it impossible for me to maintain stable housing as a software developer in a relatively low-cost-of-living area. While the average debt of a person who has a four-year public school degree might be only $26k, there are a considerable number of people with considerably more than that.
posted by Sequence at 1:18 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


I imagine that there are plenty of Gen X and maybe late Boomers such as myself, who went back to school later in life to finish an uncompleted degree, and/or to obtain an advanced degree. I am fortunate enough where I've already been able to pay off about half of the $30K of student loans that I took out, thanks to earnings/yearly bonus, and knock wood, I'll have the other half paid off in a few more years. But I certainly wouldn't complain if it were forgiven.
posted by Autumnheart at 1:40 PM on July 2


On a percentage basis, the largest increase in student loan debt is among 60 to 69-year-olds, who have experienced a 72% increase in college debt. More retirees are having their Social Security payments garnished, mostly to pay for student loans they took out for their children.

I'm not sure this is the best source, but it popped up with a quick search. A lot of people have school debt without having a degree to show for it. They either carry debt for college they couldn't finish (and have the hardest time paying off what seems like a small loan because they don't have a degree and have debt hobbling every step they take) or because they wanted to help out family members.
posted by zenzenobia at 1:49 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


When you're looking at that, Fidel Cashflow, make sure you note that there are a whole bunch of different income-driven repayment plans there. The oldest one is basically the worst, but a lot of the more recent borrowers aren't on the original IBR plan. They still aren't great. But on the other hand, my alternative is an amount of debt that would literally leave it impossible for me to maintain stable housing as a software developer in a relatively low-cost-of-living area.

I hear you and understand, but when I run the numbers the differences seem minimal to me. Certainly the 'Projected Loan Forgivenes' value will go up for the IBR-style options, but the difference in total amount paid between the conventional repayment option and IBR-style ones is small and the amount forgiven is just the vig that's run-up over the life of the loan. The lender can't lose any money in any situation, which is one of the reasons why the entire system needs reform.
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 1:50 PM on July 2


My students loans just went over the 90k mark, thanks almost 7% interest!

Yeah, mine are almost at the 90k mark, thanks to the predatory loan I got with a fucking 13.5% variable interest rate that continues to go up (it wasn't that high when I got the loan, although I wish I'd known enough at the time to say no).

Just saying, if there's going to be a debt jubilee, it had better force private lenders to forgive their debts too. I think they're a smaller percentage than public loans, but if you're stuck with one, it's especially brutal.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 1:51 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


People should keep in mind that nearly all of the $1.6 trillion in student loan debt is owned by the DOE. Debt forgiveness from the federal government does not look like writing a trillion-dollar check.

Also, that $1.6 trillion figure is funny money to begin with. 40% of all student loans are in default, so right off the top we can assume a sizable portion was never going to be collected in the first place. I don't know how to look up the number, but there's another portion of student loans that are not in default but will never be paid off. For instance someone with $70k outstanding but IBR not even covering interest.

The $1.6 trillion price tag is nonsense. I wish we could all stop repeating it.
posted by FakeFreyja at 2:17 PM on July 2 [5 favorites]


> People should keep in mind that nearly all of the $1.6 trillion in student loan debt is owned by the DOE. Debt forgiveness from the federal government does not look like writing a trillion-dollar check.

Whatever you call it, it's a transfer. Money that would be collected later that's wiped away now has a cost to the federal balance sheet. That it's not literally writing a check is a distinction without a significant difference.

> 40% of all student loans are in default, so right off the top we can assume a sizable portion was never going to be collected in the first place. I don't know how to look up the number, but there's another portion of student loans that are not in default but will never be paid off. For instance someone with $70k outstanding but IBR not even covering interest.

Actually, under 20% of loans are currently in default. The widely-cited 40% figure counts loans in "distress", or are based on predictions of the default rate by 2023.

That 1.6T number is also cited by those who support debt forgiveness as a way to measure the positive impact of the relief. Proponents of canceling student debt cannot simultaneously take credit for giving that much relief to borrowers while nitpicking the future value of the debt were it collected. If you want to choose another very large number with a T at the end of it as the real amount of relief being offered, and also the cost of providing that relief, then go ahead, but I'll use the number the proponents of the policy are using.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:31 PM on July 2


Money that would be collected later that's wiped away now has a cost to the federal balance sheet.

There is no federal balance sheet in a meaningful sense, and the federal government does not have a budget like you or I do. I'm not a complete MMT zealot, but even I can see that the government paying itself off while in complete control of the money hose is not an honest zero-sum transaction.
posted by FakeFreyja at 2:36 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


One of the things I'm having trouble wrapping my brain around is what type of incentives this would cause. If you or your kids aren't in college yet, how does that affect your decision making? More importantly, what about predatory/for-profit schools? What will they do? Remember that a lot of debt was acquired in pursuit of exploitative trade schools and similar entities; how do they respond? They already target vets, immigrants, first generation college students, etc. leaving them in debt for worthless programs. It seems to me that there's a lot of potential for abuse unless we also take a serious look at how naive students are already routinely targeted by for profit schools and mediocre institutions making false promises. The cynic in me is not optimistic.

I'm really lucky that I got into a Good School, but I have a lot of friends who went into debt to be beauticians, manicurists, etc. Every day I see ads for on the subway clearly trying to lure naive people into enrolling; no application required, just your SSN and credit. I can only imagine what the implicit promise of debt forgiveness would do for their effectiveness. There are a lot of different student loan crises, and a one size fits all approach appealing to educated middle class students could backfire drastically.
posted by snickerdoodle at 2:38 PM on July 2


> Money that would be collected later that's wiped away now has a cost to the federal balance sheet.

There is no federal balance sheet in a meaningful sense, and the federal government does not have a budget like you or I do. I'm not a complete MMT zealot, but even I can see that the government paying itself off while in complete control of the money hose is not an honest zero-sum transaction.


I'm not making a household budget analogy. I understand fiscal stimulus multipliers, and that relieving student debt has far-reaching effects beyond the actual cost. But repayment puts money in the coffers, and canceling debt stops repayment. That is inarguable. Neither you nor I have done a careful study to know the exact amount of good canceling the debt will do, so I'm using the $1.6T value of the outstanding debt as the price tag until there's a credible alternative valuation of the cost of the policy.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:46 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


One of the things I'm having trouble wrapping my brain around is what type of incentives this would cause

yup. as you say, shady schools would definitely jump all over it. the other question too is whether schools (legitimate and/or shady) would be permitted to multiply their tuitions by 100x because future debts would also be purchased by the govt and paid in full with no risk.

if you're gonna eliminate all student debt, the best way to do it would be to emulate single payer healthcare, where the govt would (going forward) set tuition rates at any school accepting students who wish to use this govt funded "debt relief" (although going forward it would be more accurate to call it free tuition). of course the federal bureaucracy running all this would have to also be insulated from political manipulation by future rightwing presidents and/or congresses...
posted by wibari at 4:42 PM on July 2


Why not just give everyone "X" dollars that they can use for anything they prioritize?
posted by asra at 5:00 PM on July 2


As welfare, this is like, reverse means-tested, ugh.

But there's the quote in this title (I don't find in the text articles, I guess a podcast?): "Student debt is essentially illegitimate." This would suggest another way to view this issue: wrongdoing and restitution. Repay the victims via confiscatory wealth taxes on college endowments, the personal wealth of the responsible college executives, and the corporate and personal wealth of the student loan industry and its bosses. Just looking at the endowments seems like that gets within an order of magnitude.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 5:06 PM on July 2




More importantly, what about predatory/for-profit schools? What will they do? Remember that a lot of debt was acquired in pursuit of exploitative trade schools and similar entities; how do they respond? They already target vets, immigrants, first generation college students, etc. leaving them in debt for worthless programs.

The Obama administration was starting to crack down on for-profits, and there have definitely been people in the education policy space who have been advocating cutting for-profits out of the federal student loan program entirely. Of course, what little progress that was made is now being undone by Betsy DeVos.

I think you really would have to do both things simultaneously—forgive current loan debt and bar federal student loans from being used for any for-profit program. That would start to make those predatory “schools” a lot less attractive.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 6:32 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


I agree with tonycpsu. I think college debt cancellation is the wrong priority. It isn't even close to universal.

First priority should be paid parental leave, at least 16 weeks.

Second priority should be free childcare from the end of parental leave to age three.

Third priority should be subsidized pre-school from age three until entering kindergarten.

Not everyone goes to college but everyone is born and everyone needs childcare. These are true universal benefits and are more important than free college for long term outcomes.

I would be okay with elimination of all private college lenders. Make the federal government the only college lender and at very low interest rates. And no government loans for private colleges. Public schools only. If you want to go to private schools you can do it on your own dime.
posted by JackFlash at 6:40 PM on July 2


What about people who worked to save up to avoid or minimize debt?

I graduated with about $180K debt, maybe $10-$15K of that consumer, the rest student loans. I spent several hellish years in Biglaw sleeping under conference tables, puking at 7:30 am and on calls at 8:45 am, and developing a case of mild PTSD (very slight exaggeration) so that I could pay off my loans. If that's the only argument against, CANCEL IT ALL.

People should keep in mind that nearly all of the $1.6 trillion in student loan debt is owned by the DOE.

No, more than a tenth of it is still privately-held FFELs or held by guaranty agencies, getting up near $180 billion. A modest portion of the total debt, but not a trivial amount, even today. So that's going to require payments to a lot of financial institutions and the prepayment of big quantities of asset-backed securities (which in the present interest rate environment will make the bondholders very sad--do note that a lot of pensions, etc., hold FFEL-backed ABS, which due to the government backstop are considered quite secure). It's going to be complicated.

This is exactly the excuse the Republicans use whenever they cut taxes. I don't believe it generally turns out to be true, but you don't find out for a while,

Guys. Sometimes you exhaust me. The reason the R tax cuts don't stimulate the economy is because they reduce the taxes of people/entities which already cannot find productive uses for all the money they have and so most of the money is simply saved. It's quite well-known--as well as, I must say, intuitively obvious--that increasing the money available to lower-income people leads to that money going right back into circulation, because they will buy, like, groceries with it, saving, at best, a small amount.
posted by praemunire at 6:55 PM on July 2 [8 favorites]


Not everyone goes to college but everyone is born and everyone needs childcare. These are true universal benefits and are more important than free college for long term outcomes.

Not everyone's going to have kids. I'm not opposed to such programs, but please don't tell me they're universal. As someone who is already past age three herself and neither has nor wants children, I would receive zero direct benefit from them.
posted by praemunire at 6:57 PM on July 2 [12 favorites]


I'm not opposed to such programs, but please don't tell me they're universal.

I'm strongly pro such programs, but the claim that they are universal makes me wince.

With the college debt idea, I don't know how you get past the barrier of people who feel (fairly or not) that they made tough choices -- working more, paying off debts early, not going to school at all, etc -- and aren't interested in paying off the loans of some deadbeat who went six figures into debt for a philosophy degree or whatever. And I'm also not totally seeing the "what next" -- do students starting school next year just take out the maximum loans with confidence that repayment will happen again?

It's clear that we need to do something, since student debt has become a deadweight for more than an entire generation, but I'm not quite buying this as the solution. (Just to be clear, I'm not opposed -- debt repayment/cancellation for everyone would be a great thing! -- but rather unconvinced that this is the right solution that is both politically possible and addresses the causes of the problem.)
posted by Dip Flash at 7:05 PM on July 2


Not everyone's going to have kids.

I assume you were once a kid. That's about as universal as it gets.
posted by JackFlash at 7:05 PM on July 2 [3 favorites]


I’m Gen X and I still owe thousands because I didn’t work outside the home when my kids were young and I took forbearances. Also I had to get a Masters to advance I my field so I borrowed more. Warren’s calculator says all my debt will be forgiven and I pray it happens.
posted by Biblio at 7:07 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


The direct help is to the child being cared for or educated. The indirect help is to the parents, who don't have to pay for or administer that care / education themselves. "Universal" doesn't mean everyone benefits equally, or that everyone avails themselves of the benefit -- it just means that everyone is eligible for the benefit. Roads are a universal benefit -- anyone can drive on them -- but you're not getting your tax dollars back if you walk or bike to work. Same goes for choosing to / not being able to parent -- if you don't have the kids, you don't need the care or education for them. What a silly semantic distraction.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:14 PM on July 2


Student debt is essentially illegitimate." This would suggest another way to view this issue: wrongdoing and restitution. Repay the victims via confiscatory wealth taxes on college endowments, the personal wealth of the responsible college executives, and the corporate and personal wealth of the student loan industry and its bosses.

I don't think the restitution claim is that straightforward. We're talking about more than a trillion dollars of debt. Confiscating all of the personal wealth of the relevant college executives and corporate officers wouldn't make a dent in the number. They just don't have enough money. You could make up more of the difference by confiscating college endowments, but that's effectively a funding cut for colleges. That's a bad idea from Republicans and a bad idea from the left. Even if the colleges as institutions deserve it in some sense, the burden of the loss will be borne by staff, contingent faculty, new students, and anyone who benefits from the university system of knowledge production. and new students. That leaves the student loan industry and its bosses, which again isn't enough to make up the difference unless you include the biggest part of the industry, the Federal government which can pay the debt by just writing it off and increasing debt or increasing taxes.

Just tax the wealthy straight out. The rest is picking up pennies for a quarter apiece.
posted by This time is different. at 8:01 PM on July 2


You could make up more of the difference by confiscating college endowments, but that's effectively a funding cut for colleges.

Primarily cuts to private colleges. The endowments of public universities are trivial in comparison to private colleges per student. Private colleges are are subsidized by public taxpayers that provide tax deductions for rich donors and tax exemptions on private colleges' billions in endowment investments.
posted by JackFlash at 8:11 PM on July 2


"With the college debt idea, I don't know how you get past the barrier of people who feel (fairly or not) that they made tough choices -- working more, paying off debts early, not going to school at all, etc -- and aren't interested in paying off the loans of some deadbeat who went six figures into debt for a philosophy degree or whatever"

Hey now, philosophy is the fourth highest-earning major for people who only have undergraduate degrees, and since so many of them go to law school it also comes out really well among those with graduate degrees.

I finished paying off my student loans literally this week, and I think student debt forgiveness is a GREAT idea. I will have precisely two seconds of annoyance about choosing schools based on financial aid packages and forgoing vacations to pay my loans down faster, and that's it. What an enormous blessing for people who are struggling under oppressive loans and CAN'T work their way out, or for people who were conned, or for people facing college soon. And what an amazing influx of cash to the economy -- entire sectors of which are suffering because millennials can't fucking afford to buy cars and houses and major appliances, or to have children, or to pay for swim lessons for those children. There's been a ton of work done on how the economic burdens have forced millennials to delay "traditional markers of adulthood" (buying expensive shit), and how hard the economy has been hit by the fact that an entire generation has had to delay every major purchase by an entire decade because they're burdened with so much debt.

I made the choices to pay my loans ahead for ME, and for my future and for my peace of mind, not to beat anybody else in a race, and certainly not to play chicken with how my personal finances interact with politics. Forgive the student debt and laissez les bon temps rouler! I look forward to the economic boost resulting from an entire generation freed from debt, which I'll benefit from even if I'm not having any debt forgiven myself.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:54 PM on July 2 [10 favorites]


Jonas Salk: *invents polio vaccine*
Random idiot: Yeah well what about all those people who got polio last year?
Random idiot: And what about all those people who didn't get polio?
Jonas Salk: Shit you're right, that's not fair is it.
Jonas Salk: *flushes vaccine down toilet*

posted by klanawa at 10:00 PM on July 2 [16 favorites]


I assume you were once a kid. That's about as universal as it gets.

No one is going back in time to give my mother money. I myself, the selfish me, the one who if I had a deeply damaged soul and thought that other people should be tortured for the rest of their lives to pay off their student loans just because I had to work 60-plus-hour weeks to pay off mine, that would apparently be okay--that singular person would receive no direct benefit or subsidy of any kind from this plan, not one dime or free vacation day. If you consider it morally untenable or politically indefensible to hand out a benefit that many people would not, in fact, ever be in a position to receive, that applies to universal child care as well.
posted by praemunire at 12:27 AM on July 3 [3 favorites]


I think @ProBirdRights said it best.
posted by praemunire at 12:31 AM on July 3 [5 favorites]


My parents wouldn't fill out any paperwork for financial aid, because "we make too much for that" but also "we don't have any money for college for you." I didn't want to take out any loans, so I worked multiple jobs and went to school concurrently, thanks in part to a half tuition scholarship I was granted for the first two years, but the person in charge of the scholarship took it away in the third year because "you've had it for two years, it's time for someone else to get it" and I couldn't juggle school and three jobs total, so I dropped out and found my own way.

I've been extremely fortunate since then, and in four years when my kids go to college, they should have enough to cover all four years each, provided my savings, their mother's savings and money from certain relatives all stays on track. I assume any debt forgiveness will impact kids ahead of them, but not be available to them, and so the focus will be to avoid loans by any means necessary.

So, won't help me, won't help my kids, but I'm still on team forgive-the-debt, full stop.
posted by davejay at 1:21 AM on July 3 [3 favorites]


“It's crazy when David Brooks and others describe free college as if it is some weird, foreign import, as opposed to the lived norm of American life from the founding till the 1970s.

Here's the Indiana state constitution from 1816, which has free college! “ @rortybomb
posted by The Whelk at 8:22 AM on July 3 [6 favorites]


I assume you were once a kid. That's about as universal as it gets.

Children are not in the habit of paying for their own child care. Universal Child Care grants are for the people who have a child, not the people who are or were a child.

I still think Universal Child Care grants are a fantastic idea, it's just that if you're talking about a cash payout that benefits "everyone", this isn't it, because childless people would be disqualified (unless you want to issue a retroactive thing).

Again, still think it's a great idea, and still want to do it. Just also pointing out that "also still waiting for someone in this conversation to bring up something I could actually qualify for".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:51 AM on July 3 [4 favorites]


it's just that if you're talking about a cash payout that benefits "everyone", this isn't it, because childless people would be disqualified

This is just dumb. By your argument, no new benefit can be universal unless it is retroactive to everyone who ever lived. By your argument, Social Security and Medicare are not universal. I just don't know what to say to that particularly obtuse argument.

Paid parental leave and childcare is universal in that every single person born from this day forward is entitled to it.

This one of those "I don't have children, why should I pay school taxes" arguments. It completely ignores that everyone is entitled to public schools and further, that having an educated citizenry benefits everyone, even those who don't have children.
posted by JackFlash at 11:20 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]


This one of those "I don't have children, why should I pay school taxes" arguments.

Except for the part where I said "I still think it's a good idea and we should do it."

This is just dumb. By your argument, no new benefit can be universal unless it is retroactive to everyone who ever lived. By your argument, Social Security and Medicare are not universal.

Except for the fact that people who already grew up are not children any more, and no longer require child care - but just as "everyone was once a child", so too will "everyone also grow up" and "everyone will get sick at some point and require a doctor's care in some capacity." So, yes, Medicare is universal.

And for the Nth time - no one here is saying that any of these plans should not be implemented. This is a "yes, and" point - meant to encourage people who are coming up with plans to think of additional programs to benefit those who cannot qualify for

* Student debt relief (because they paid off the student loans already)
* Child care reimbursement (because they don't have children)
* X. (because Y).

In short - student debt relief and child care reimbursement are all great things, but them being great things does not make them the universal panaceas some are holding them up to be. Also, them not being universal panaceas does not negate the fact that they are great ideas that I support.

Is that clear?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:29 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]


My idea is Congress simply capping the student loan interest rate to whatever the Fed rate is. Changing everyone's rate to 2% (or whatever) would especially help those people with variable rate loans. Force the lenders to recalculate the loans at 2% since inception and use the excess interest paid to pay down the principal. This would also place the burden on lenders instead of the public.
posted by leaper at 11:38 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]


People who die before they reach 65 don't get Medicare or Social Security. So by your tendentious definition, it can't be considered a universal benefit. This is just silly.

Paid parental leave and childcare for every single child born today is about as universal as it gets. It benefits everyone.

"What about the beleaguered childless people" is a right-wing trope and I don't know why you would insist on bringing it up. It contributes nothing to the discussion.
posted by JackFlash at 11:39 AM on July 3


Paid parental leave and childcare for every single child born today is about as universal as it gets. It benefits everyone.

....How would I enroll in that program if it benefits everyone? I don't have children, do I still qualify?

Or, if by "it benefits everyone" you mean that it does so indirectly, then - so did student debt repayment, so why do you propose this as an alternate?

"What about the beleaguered childless people" is a right-wing trope and I don't know why you would insist on bringing it up. It contributes nothing to the discussion.

Neither does a proposition for universal child care contribute to a discussion on student loan forgiveness, but that didn't stop you from bringing it up. And it's rich for someone making a "think of the children" argument to accuse someone else of a "right-wing trope".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:57 AM on July 3 [6 favorites]


them being great things does not make them the universal panaceas some are holding them up to be

I think the issue is that is that no one is actually arguing that these policies are "universal panaceas," and the meaning of "universal" being argued against here and elsewhere is not the meaning intended by those who use the term. As I understand it, the term "universal" as used in these policy circles primarily means "not means-tested" as opposed to "everyone gets it." Perhaps there should a better term for this, but on the other hand, since the notion of "universal" being argued against is tautologically empty, I don't see a huge problem here, at least relative to the scale of problems on usually encounters in politics. Like all policies, debt relief benefits some people and not others; unlike some policies, "universal" debt relief is not means-tested, just like "universal" health care is meant to be distinguished from means-tested programs like Medicaid, ACA subsidies, etc. I guess there's some more nuance here, since "universal" when applied to healthcare is also meant to distinguish it from Medicare as it currently stands, which is not means-tested but is age-limited. So perhaps "universal" means "available to everyone who needs it" as opposed to specifically "not means-tested" -- but in any case, it certainly doesn't mean "everyone gets it."
posted by chortly at 12:08 PM on July 3 [3 favorites]


So perhaps "universal" means "available to everyone who needs it" as opposed to specifically "not means-tested" -- but in any case, it certainly doesn't mean "everyone gets it."

And that is precisely why I and several others in this thread have been advocating for "yes let's please have student debt relief, and also come up with things that will benefit the people that don't qualify for student debt relief". I am at a loss to ascertain why the argument that "let's forget student debt relief and go for child care because it will benefit everyone" got advanced as a replacement idea.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:13 PM on July 3 [4 favorites]


Okay, but how about we do it after helping those who are more needy first? The order matters since we know not everything is going to get done or done soon, so fix the pathways to college first, then make tuition free for everyone so that "everyone" actually means something and might lift up more people from poverty. Of course then there's homelessness, global warming, medicare for all, and other things too that need attention and resources that debt relief will impact, so why that first?

Really, the very need for student debt relief suggests how screwed up the system is as we know that college grads on average make considerably more than their non-college going peers, so the advantage they've received in going to college should be benefit enough to pay off loans they took out, but we know that isn't the case for many. That suggests that the expected benefit of getting a degree isn't being realized for many and/or that the price of college is so exorbitant that the benefit in earnings is offset by the costs.

Both of those suggest making college tuition free without radically changing how colleges operate is a mistake since adding even more students will further dilute the potential benefit of a degree as they become ever more commonplace and that the costs continuing to go uncontained makes it a bad investment for the country if people aren't getting benefits that outweigh the costs, which is also only made worse by adding more people to a broken system.

There are also of course those that can adequately afford to pay off their own loans due to seeing that higher income the degree promises, but they don't need help, and those who receive the benefits of higher income but choose to prioritize other things before paying off their loans, which doesn't suggest making their debt a higher priority than other issues.

The student debt issue needs some some fix, making it more easily dischargeable would be a good first step, but without doing something to address the crazily escalating costs of college and making some effort to address the problems with the job market for all, where wages aren't keeping up with inflation and housing costs, then shoveling money in the university furnaces isn't going to do much good. The romantic ideal of a college education is deeply flawed, resting as it does on dreams of joining the elite. That model is badly outdated and doesn't fit the needs of society today or the actual use most want from college as a guarantee of a comfortable income in a chosen career.
posted by gusottertrout at 12:56 PM on July 3 [1 favorite]


And that is precisely why I and several others in this thread have been advocating for "yes let's please have student debt relief, and also come up with things that will benefit the people that don't qualify for student debt relief". I am at a loss to ascertain why the argument that "let's forget student debt relief and go for child care because it will benefit everyone" got advanced as a replacement idea.

I guess the unintended problem is that, when one comes into a forum where policy X is being discussed mainly in order to say that policy X doesn't cover some other group A and to suggest we additionally discuss other policies that do benefit group A, there's a tendency to read that as a criticism of policy X and/or an attempt to redirect the conversation away from X to some other Y. This tendency is probably exacerbated by the fact that, outside of this community, there are very many people (like Yglesias) within the left who really do mean the fact that X doesn't cover A as a criticism of X, and not just a suggestion to broaden the conversation. The broader context is that critiques of "universal" policies are, on Twitter and in the media, most often by pundits who think that the left is offering panaceas, that their plans are not truly "universal," that certain groups are unfairly left out or unfairly benefit, and that these are not the best uses of finite resources. Within that broader context, merely suggesting that we discuss alternate policies that do benefit groups that are not benefited by X can come across as part of the general criticism of these policies, rather than an attempt to take a thread on X and broaden it to a discussion of Y, Z, etc.
posted by chortly at 1:27 PM on July 3


Force the lenders to recalculate the loans at 2% since inception and use the excess interest paid to pay down the principal.

I could almost consider paying off my loans a reasonable option if all the interest since inception were knocked off. That would be amazing even without the debt as a whole being canceled.

(And I'm pretty sure there aren't many people supporting student debt cancellation that aren't also in favor of universal child care and preschool along with a host of other useful social programs. How is this even something we're bickering about?)
posted by asperity at 2:12 PM on July 3


Okay, but how about we do it after helping those who are more needy first? The order matters since we know not everything is going to get done or done soon, so fix the pathways to college first, then make tuition free for everyone so that "everyone" actually means something and might lift up more people from poverty. Of course then there's homelessness, global warming, medicare for all, and other things too that need attention and resources that debt relief will impact, so why that first?

I....don't recall anyone setting a timeline on anything?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:08 PM on July 3


I’m 60 years old, still paying off student loans, and I’ve never understood why a cashier at Walmart or a truck driver should pay more taxes because I decided to do PhD work in English.

I could get behind paying off medical debt. A church near me just paid off $1.8 million in medical debt for 2000 random families (it had gone to debt collection, so it only cost them $15,000). Medical debt is the number one cause of personal bankruptcy. In case you’re wondering, I don’t have medical debt.
posted by FencingGal at 5:21 PM on July 3 [2 favorites]


They’re not going to pay more taxes.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 5:30 PM on July 3


I should have spent more time formulating that thought.

Presumably, the money comes from somewhere. People who earn much less than I do pay federal taxes. I don’t think their taxes should fund my decision to go to graduate school.
posted by FencingGal at 5:44 PM on July 3 [1 favorite]


Through all the talk here on metafilter, the position where people took out more loans than were "strictly necessary" and focused more on people from "rich families" being absolved of their loans equally to those who required loans in order to afford tuition and not starve.

I knew a bunch of "rich kids" in grad school (Canada) who took out loans, expecting their family would pay it off as a graduation present. Which they did. Albeit, these kinds of debt wouldn't ever hurt the rich kids, and their (kind's) share of outstanding debt is infinitesimal.

Aside from "I suffered, you must too," there might be a little bit of virtue moralizing of who's debt was more needy (people who took on way too much debt, only to spend a lot of that on partying/ having a nicer place/ etc.).

The university systems are stratifying to catch up with the extreme economic disparity we're hurtling through. So many systematic upheavals would have to occur in order for free-for-all-who-qualify post-secondary education to be meaningful.

My cynical side is asking who develops the syllabi and specific curriculum of said, for these free colleges? Would "free college" just end up like the worst of highschool-as-daycare? Would they end up being indoctrinal schools for American Exceptionalism?
posted by porpoise at 7:03 PM on July 3


Well, I for one would teach the hell out of a biology class at a free college. Berea college is my dream job, and no one admitted pays any tuition. (It is means tested.)

But filing for bankruptcy is not cost or risk free and if your circumstances are that dire, you’re probably already paying little or nothing via some form of IBR.

It has been shocking to me how often people are crushed under loan debt and do not know about IBR options. I just last month made my first student loan payment of $311. That's after loan consolidation and enrollment in the REPAYE plan, one of the most favorable. My payments under the standard plan would have been around $800. I'm grateful. Still, there goes the possibility of buying a new car; I will run this clunker into the ground as usual and buy another used car.

Someone above was saying that the repayment under IBR terms was usurious, I guess due to interest, and you'd end up paying more, and maybe that's true if your debt is only $30k. (I smile fondly at the idea of having only $30k.) My debt was $55k upon graduation, and after not paying the interest during deferment for my PhD, I finished my doctorate with $90k. Under IBR I will not end up paying all of that.

A good friend of mine, sadly, is suffering under private loans that are not dischargeable in bankruptcy but also do not qualify for any relief. She's been living with this for ten years and it absolutely prevents her from being able to do anything other than work and hand the money to a bank. She should be able to declare bankruptcy. As it stands, saving for retirement is a pipe dream, and she's 40.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 6:16 AM on July 4


Student loan payments (public or private) are tax deductible in the US. Instead of that money being exempt from taxes, it will now be taxable.
posted by soelo at 2:34 PM on July 2 [+] [!]


Just want to point out that student loan payments are not tax deductible, only the interest portion of the payment is.

Also, yes in general, debt forgiveness is usually taxable, but congress would be the one writing the law and they can just add a tax exemption for this.
posted by LizBoBiz at 1:23 AM on July 5


Further clarification: there is a cap on the amount of interest on student loans that is tax deductible, it's around $2,500. We give much more generous tax deduction on mortgage interest.
posted by mareli at 2:25 PM on July 10


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