These aren't your grandma's student loans

Via Unsplash. 

Boomers tend to scoff at the idea of student loan forgiveness, often claiming that young people should simply work like they did to pay for college. What they don’t understand is that the cost of tuition has skyrocketed, and working your way through college has become nearly impossible.

According to an article by Business Insider, overall college costs are twice as high as in the 1970s, even when adjusting for inflation. In today’s dollars, boomers paid $39,780 on average, while Gen Z is paying $90,875 on average. Furthermore, as of 2016, college was 80.9 percent of women’s median incomes, and 51.8 percent of men’s median incomes. In 1971, those percentages were 58.6 and 20.4, respectively. 

In 1970, boomers could afford private school tuition by working a minimum wage job full-time during the summer and about 15 hours per week during the school year. However, in 2021, a student would have to work a minimum wage job 100 hours per week, 52 weeks per year. 

Of course, this depends on the state’s minimum wage. In Illinois in 2021, a student would have had to work 26 hours per week year-round to pay one year’s tuition. In Washington, which has one of the highest minimum wages in the nation, a student would only need to work 10 hours a week. However, in New Hampshire, which has one of the lowest minimum wages in the nation, a student would need to work 45 hours a week to afford one year’s tuition. 

Snowballing costs are another issue, as many graduates end up paying several times their initial loans in interest despite making all their payments. Most people getting loan forgiveness have paid their debts many times over, and are still shackled to them. 

Some argue that to minimize or avoid the cost of student loans, young people should opt for trade school or community college, or live at home to save the cost of room and board. It’s true that these can be great options for some, and can certainly help, but they aren’t the end-all, be-all solution. 

Those with a bachelor’s degree have average lifetime earnings of $2,268,000, while those with some college have average lifetime earnings of $1,547,000. For those with only a high school degree, that number is $1,304,00. College graduates are also 47 percent more likely to have health insurance than nongraduates.  

Additionally, while there is nothing wrong with staying home during college, many students attend a university that offers them the best scholarships or has the best opportunities for their intended career path, which may not be within commuting distance. College can also be a great time to grow as an individual, meet people from other walks of life and learn to be independent without being fully on your own, and living on campus is a way to do these things. 

Another common talking point from those who oppose student loan forgiveness is that it’s not fair to those who had to pay off their student loans. While it’s understandable that people who paid off their student loans may feel cheated, this is a dangerous way of thinking. In order to make social progress, younger generations should have opportunities and advantages that previous generations didn’t. 

Loan forgiveness will enable more people to buy cars and homes and start businesses and families. We shouldn’t limit the possibilities of the future because it might be better than the past.

(2) comments

Colby Heaton

One thing that was not mentioned is student loans and college is not a requirement at all for citizens to do. The problem with the loan forgiveness is that it has to be paid for somehow because nothing is free. It is going to be paid through taxes and other means from the everyday worker. People who chose not to go to school will have to fork up more to pay for the loan forgiveness now, a choice they chose not to do in the first place. It should be up to the students responsibility to pay for their schooling, loans or not. If they choose a loan they are signing an obligation to pay to back, if they can not then that is the result of their own actions and that should be the individuals fault. No one is required to go to college, it is all a choice and people should be held responsible for their decisions.

Doreen Hees

You didn’t address an important issue regarding the proposed loan forgiveness program. American taxpayers will have to absorb the debt. You said that people who paid off their student loans would feel cheated and that this way of thinking is “dangerous.” What is dangerous about the truth? What I call dangerous is your thinking, “to make social progress, younger generations should have opportunities and advantages that previous generations didn’t.” I paid back my loans through sacrifice and hard work. What about all of the people who didn’t go to college, because they couldn’t afford it? Do you know that only 35-40 percent of American have a college degree? This means that the 60-65 percent of American’s who make considerably less than the college educated, per your statistics above, will have to incur the debt of those who have more earning potential. I find that ironic - poorer helping the richer. Social programs in the past were always introduced by the government to help the poor, not the other way around.

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