Taxpayers have no responsibility to pay off my student loans

Andrew Campanella President, National School Choice Week
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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.

Upending our higher education system, a system that works, would be a colossal mistake.

Just think: What would forgiveness and restructuring say to someone like me? I’m in my early thirties, and 10 years after I graduated from college, I’m still repaying my student loans, even though I mitigated these loans while I was still in college by getting academic scholarships, working five jobs at one time, receiving assistance from my parents and not following my classmates into post-graduate education when I couldn’t see the return on the investment — and when I frankly couldn’t afford it. But I own up to my debts. I signed up for them. I pay them. I don’t particularly love writing the checks every month, but I don’t dispute that I owe the money and got something great — a solid education — in return.

The members of the Occupy generation, and their coddlers, think someone else should pay their debts. They blame someone else for the fact that their obscure, excessive degrees won’t get them a job where they can collect a six-figure paycheck for sitting around and pondering the meaning of life.

I don’t want to pay these fools’ debts, nor do I want my parents, my grandparents or anyone else to. We must force these coddled cowards into breaking their arrogant elitism, through hard work and sacrifice. We must force them to pay off the loans they incurred.

There is only one group of people our society has ever given free and clear college educations to: the brave warriors who fought to keep America free and safe, our veterans. With the G.I. Bill, we honored those who valiantly fought and won wars by paying for their schooling. That isn’t too much to ask of a grateful and free nation.

But the Occupy protesters? They can pay their own debts.

And their coddlers — Warren, Duncan and the like — should find a real problem to solve.

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.