Updated: May 10
Saturday, April 30th, 2022
It’s no debate that the higher education model is broken, predatory, and increasingly partisan.
My generation was brainwashed into believing that a 4 year degree was absolutely necessary to get into the workforce and make a decent living. As I’ve grown, I’ve gained a good bit of hindsight, bringing forth existential crisis…
Perhaps my degrees were a colossal waste of money.
That’s a very hard pill to swallow, and it’s been a very daunting reflection. Looking back at my time at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, I realize I was trained to take tests and write papers in a specific way rather than actually learn critical thinking or real world application.
Graduate school was a little better, but I still was at the behest of whatever rubric my professor at the time wanted to adhere to. Defending my dissertation was just a box to check.
So why did I go into nearly $60k in debt for two degrees? The bachelors degree fulfilled the requirement to be a commissioned officer in the Army, so that worked out. But otherwise? I haven’t found my place yet, and I’m treading water, seemingly making no progress.
The university system didn’t set me up for success, it set me up for false confidence in a workforce I’m not trained well enough for.
Who‘s to Blame...?
An entire generation was lied to by parents, high schools, teachers, public officials, etc. We were told we needed a degree or we’d be working at McDonald’s flipping burgers. We were conditioned to see blue collar work as undesirable and “lesser”.
Worst part about this lie? It cost an exorbitant amount of money, requiring loans through both the federal government’s FAFSA program, and private bank loans. Fresh out of high school, the system has continuously preyed on naïve 18 year olds who don’t know a damned thing about interest.
Many of us have grown up, making minimum payments and praying for another COVID deferment. Others have been financially savv, frugal, and have wisely prioritized paying off debt. I find myself somewhere in the middle.
Everyone’s situation and experience is different. But rent is increasing, houses are too expensive, gas has skyrocketed, etc. Inflation his nearing 10%.
Our nation now has an entire generation approaching their 30s, many of whom can’t afford a home or raise a child. That doesn’t bode well for our social fabric.
This doesn’t mean there’s zero personal accountability. I’m well aware of my self inflicted position with student debt. I made the choice to get my degrees. But I think the conversation about how we got here with so many struggling is important.
POTUS Makes Moves
The Biden administration has been exploring up to $50k debt forgiveness based on undisclosed parameters. According to the Washington Post, the White House is “considering income caps for eligibility for student loan relief that would exclude higher-earning Americans.”
“Biden aides have examined limiting the relief to people who earned less than either $125,000 or $150,000 as individual filers the previous year, the people said. That plan would set the threshold at around $250,000 or $300,000 for couples who file their taxes jointly, the people said. No final decisions have been made”
On principle, I don’t think it’s the Executive Branch’s purview to do so. Wiping away debt, when many have already paid theirs off also doesn’t seem fair.
Selfishly? I welcome it! Please cancel my debt. I guarantee most in my position feel the same way.
President Biden’s approval rating is a low 29%. Therefore, making people happy in the short term, leading up to the midterms and eventually the 2024 election, is a priority. He and his advisors may feel required to do something to alleviate the financial stress, but that means nothing if we also don’t discuss the roots of these issues.
Both the left and right have been too busy grandstanding with political theater on these issues rather than coming to the table with good faith arguments to solve this issue. Good ideas exist, but we’re too busy mudslinging on petty issues.
Is this an easy fix? Just press the button and make debt go away, and everything will be fine? No. And it’s incredibly irresponsible for it to be framed that way. But here we are with a sitting President looking to garner approval and votes for his party.
Time will tell how this plays out, but there’s no question we need an honest conversation about the student loan machine.