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BEN SNEAD: Don’t Fall For The Student Debt Sob Story

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Ben Snead Contributor
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In defiance of the Supreme Court’s strikedown of his forgiveness program, President Biden is now collecting loopholes in the legal system to cancel billions of dollars of student loan debt.

Thanks to the Supreme Court ruling in June, the president can’t erase student loan debt altogether. But by expanding forgiveness options available to borrowers, Biden hopes to help more students get out of their agreements to repay universities for their education. What these strategies stalwartly refuse to acknowledge is that regardless of how unfairly universities may have treated borrowers during and after the pandemic, these students did receive these college educations. Biden’s manipulations will only make it easier for people to claim a victim narrative and get out of the responsibility of paying for the education they have received.  

As a college student who made the conscious financial decision to forgo a higher-quality education, it’s difficult to feel sorry for those who have to pay for their decision. When I graduated high school, I had the option of attending various out-of-state, private liberal arts schools. Instead, I decided to attend my state school where I earned a scholarship, allowing me to avoid taking out loans. It wasn’t my “dream school,” but it put me on track to get my degree without breaking the bank. (RELATED: CARTER And PIDLUZNY: Student Loan ‘Forgiveness’ — Another Slight To Blue-Collar Workers)

Some of my peers made the opposite choice, taking on debt in order to attend those more expensive, private institutions. I don’t begrudge my peers who decided to attend a private college or university—attending a private, out-of-state institution can be a good investment. 

I understand the difficulty of operating under a tight budget—it’s what kept me from taking on those loans in the first place—and it’s easy to relate to people who are feeling the pressure of another monthly expense to balance with the rising costs of food, rent, and gas. But that doesn’t mean borrowers are being treated unfairly. College is an investment, not a necessity. Those who borrowed money to invest in their education will enjoy the rewards—it’s only right they would pay the dividends.

My peers who ask to have their loans for their costlier education forgiven seem out of touch. As someone who decided to earn a degree frugally, even if it meant turning down my dream school, it seems unfair. But to those who chose to forgo a college education altogether, it’s a complete slap in the face.

When hundreds of billions in taxpayer dollars are spent to “forgive” student loans, that subsidy only benefits the most well-off demographic in American life: young college graduates. 

Statistically, people who attend elite institutions, and often obtain multiple degrees, end up earning more than their counterparts who aren’t college-educated. The earnings gap between those with just a bachelor’s degree and those with no college degree has only grown in recent decades. In fact, college graduates are not only likely to earn more, but they’re also more likely to have a job in the first place. This is especially true in the wake of the pandemic when people without college experience were nearly twice as likely to be unemployed. 

In the long run, college-educated Americans come out on top. And most graduates recognize that reality. As of October 2021, 70% of graduates said their college education was extremely or very useful for job opportunities, while 65% said their degree was extremely or very useful in “developing specific skills and knowledge that could be used in the workplace.”

This is why, from a policy standpoint, canceling student loans is difficult to justify. It’s hard to explain why it’s in the public’s interest for the federal government to subsidize the wealthy or the soon-to-be wealthy. (RELATED: HERRING: Biden Is Walking A Political Tightrope Over Student Loan Debt)

There are plenty of other Americans who are more deserving of federal assistance, but the plight of those Americans is often neglected by the press. The minimal coverage of those Americans’ financial struggles, compared with the expansive news coverage of student debt is a symptom of media bias.

This bias is not malicious—most members of the press attended college, and are socialized among peers who also have college degrees. It’s not surprising that they easily relate to someone struggling to pay back loans better than a small business owner in a rural town. However, it means the difficulties of college graduates are grossly exaggerated, while more serious problems go unaddressed. 

Sob stories about borrowers struggling to add another line item to their budgets reflect a serious blindspot amongst our journalist class. It’s time for those of us with college educations to stop asking for the charity of the American taxpayer. My fellow college students and recent graduates should have the perspective to understand that, on the whole, we’re relatively well-off. More importantly, we made an agreement. It’s time to hold up our end of the bargain.   

Ben Snead is a senior at the University of Oregon’s Clark Honors College and a Young Voices contributor.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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