There are only two things that are certain in this life: debt and taxes. I’m sorry: death and taxes. And if you are a student, you will most likely be looking at a lifetime of student loan payments. You will pay taxes. If you need a student loan to go to college, you will pay it back. And you will probably die before your loan is paid off: tough break for the federal student loan program.
So what if you must pay back your student loan? You used the money, now you should pay it back. Fair enough. However, situations change. The American economy reflects this truth. The European economy suffers from this truth. The Asian economy experiences this truth. All the individuals who live and work in all the economies in the world are bound by this truth. The American bankruptcy laws exist because of this truth.
An American who experiences overwhelming economic hardship can get a fresh start by filing for bankruptcy. Of course, this means that the person will have to change some habits moving forward, but this is a good thing. You really can live without credit cards. Trust me. The debt can be restructured to make repayment possible or, under extreme circumstances, the debt can be dismissed. Not so with student loans. You will pay your student loan back, in full, or die trying. Period.
There was a time when this was not the case. As a result, students took advantage and abused the system by not repaying their student loans at all. The federal government over-reacted and now we all suffer. How is it that we all suffer, and not just the students? We hear a lot of lip service from every level of government about how education is essential for a stable, productive society. Our students are our future. We hear this as we watch our public schools churn out graduates who are not prepared for college level work. We hear it as most college freshmen must take remedial courses in English and math in order to have even a shot at understanding college coursework. We hear it as college tuitions exceed all reason.
So, the average college student must borrow an enormous sum of money that will be paid back come hell or global depression. Affordable education can now only be found online, but not through college or university online courses. These too are exorbitant. As far as our government is concerned, online college courses are just another income stream for their student loan programs.
If our government really believes that education is the key to the stability and productivity of our society (a big “if” by the way), there is only one course it can take: The federal government must make education affordable for everyone. If shackling our college students with a debt that most of them will spend their entire lives trying (and failing) to pay off is serving anyone, it is not the students. Nor is it our society. Indiscriminately lending money to students without giving any consideration to whether or not they will be able to pay it back is not responsible.
When our banks misbehave, our federal government bails them out with our tax money. When big businesses misbehave, our federal government bails them out with our tax money. And the federal government never refers to these institutions as “our future.” When college graduates find themselves in a position that makes it impossible for them to repay their student loans, they’re on their own.
Forcing students to pay back what they will never have is not reasonable. Our college graduates don’t even have to misbehave in order to find themselves in this position. Things change. Economies change. Family situations change. Students’ lives change. Student loan laws have only changed once in this lifetime, of course to serve the lenders, not the borrowers, nor our society. In this case, the borrowers are our future, where three things are certain: death, taxes, and student loan payments.
by John DePonte