Feature:Opinion

Taxpayers have no responsibility to pay off my student loans

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Andrew Campanella
Education Reform Policy Analyst
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      Andrew Campanella

      Andrew Campanella is the author of four consecutive editions of the "School Choice Yearbook" and has served as senior adviser to the Alliance for School Choice and the American Federation for Children. He is the the vice president of public affairs for National School Choice Week.

When did student loans become a bad thing? When did the repayment of those loans come to constitute an unfair burden on the individuals who readily accepted money to go to the colleges and universities of their choice?

If you listen to the Occupy Wall Street cabal, to the patron saint of Occupy — so-called “consumer advocate” Elizabeth Warren — and to a growing number of lawmakers at the state and federal levels, student loan providers are loan sharks who cruelly “profit” off of unwitting kids. These loans should be written off, forgiven and ridiculously restructured, they argue.

They’re wrong. Student loans build character and increase access to good schools.

The notion that the federal government would, as lawmakers have discussed, forgive or write down these loans is an outrage. What message would that send?

These leaders are simply amplifying the twisted complaints of this entitled Occupy generation, which is filled with students who would rather whine on the streets than suffer the indignity of putting their unnecessary master’s degrees to use by being baristas at the nearby Starbucks or by tackling the jobs some elitists claim “Americans simply won’t do.”

This entitlement mentality is prevalent, and it’s sad. Driving though D.C. two weeks ago, I saw a recent college graduate with a sign that made me laugh — and made me sick at the same time.

“Overeducated. Unemployed,” it read.

“So what?” I thought. Is that really a complaint worth airing, while blocking traffic on my route home from a real job?

These protesters seem to have forgotten that nobody forced them to get that extra master’s degree in art history or European literature. It isn’t society’s fault — or mine as a taxpayer — that these snooty college kids think they’re too good, too smart and too talented to take a job that pays by the hour. If they took these jobs, they’d learn a lot about discipline, authority and hard work!

The student loan system isn’t keeping them down. Their own entitled arrogance, however, is.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan took this hyperbole to new levels on Monday, bellyaching in The Wall Street Journal that a student who accesses a loan and takes 20 years to pay it back “will have paid 20% more than their original loan.”

The horrors!

But that’s how student loans (and all loans) work. Loans charge interest.

Student loans are fair, and they — along with Pell Grants for low-income students, academic and athletic scholarships and school-based aid — make every college or university available to any student in our country.

Indeed, convenient access to excellent colleges and universities has made America’s higher education system the envy of the world. That’s why legions of foreign exchange students flock here to learn. And it’s why education reformers seek to imitate this fantastic free market of education in the K-12 sector, where we are, unfortunately, the laughingstock of the developed world.