The Student Debt Forgiveness Debate: Applying Fairness And Fiscal Responsibility

By Clayton A. Mitchell, Sr., Esquire

We find ourselves at a crossroads where the principles of fairness and fiscal responsibility stand at odds with the allure of sweeping student loan forgiveness. The Biden administration’s ambitious plan to erase student debt, while undoubtedly appealing to many, raises profound questions about the nature of responsibility and equity in our society.

Let us not forget the values upon which this great nation was built. From its inception, America has championed the virtues of hard work, diligence, and personal responsibility. These are not mere platitudes but the very foundation upon which our society thrives. It is a principle deeply ingrained in Americans that one reaps what they sow, and that success is born out of dedication and perseverance.

Yet, in the clamor for student loan forgiveness, we risk diluting these values. Forgiving student debt on a massive scale sends a troubling message—that fiscal responsibility can be forsaken, and that personal choices can be absolved of their consequences. Such a notion runs counter to the very essence of accountability.

Consider the plight of those who pursued alternative paths, eschewing the traditional route of higher education in favor of the trades or military service. These individuals made sacrifices, often foregoing the allure of college campuses and the promise of white-collar careers. They did not seek handouts or expect others to shoulder their burdens. Instead, they embraced the virtues of hard work and self-reliance. It is unjust to expect these individuals to bear the burden of paying off academic loans for those who may have made less prudent decisions when choosing their degree paths.

Also consider the situation of those who worked their way through college and saved diligently to graduate with no student debt or responsibly paid off their loans. These individuals made significant sacrifices, balancing demanding jobs with their academic responsibilities and often forgoing leisure and social activities to manage their finances prudently. They demonstrated immense dedication and discipline, ensuring their education did not become a financial burden. Their efforts reflect a commitment to personal responsibility and financial stewardship, contributing to their personal growth and stability without relying on external financial assistance.

While the pursuit of higher education is unquestionably valuable, it is not the only path to success nor the only avenue deserving of support. A history degree, for example, may serve as an excellent foundation for careers in academia or museum curation. However, it is not necessarily in high demand across the broader spectrum of the 21st-century job market. Unlike fields such as engineering or computer science, there are no “history factories” churning out employment opportunities in abundance. Considering this reality, the question arises: why should taxpayers bear the burden of forgiving loans for degrees with limited economic viability? This question strikes at the heart of the debate surrounding student loan forgiveness.

On one hand, there is a compelling argument to be made for targeting relief towards borrowers who face genuine financial hardship or who have been victims of predatory lending practices. Such individuals may have pursued degrees in good faith, only to find themselves burdened by insurmountable debt in an unforgiving job market.

On the other hand, indiscriminate loan forgiveness risks perpetuating a system in which personal responsibility is sidelined in favor of government intervention. It begs the question of where to draw the line between compassion and fiscal prudence. To indiscriminately forgive student debt without considering the sacrifices of those who chose alternative paths is to perpetuate an injustice. It undermines the contributions of those who have dedicated their lives to serving their country, mastering essential trades, or working and saving their way through college.

In crafting solutions to address the student debt issue, we must ensure that we do not penalize those who have already made significant sacrifices in service to their communities and nation. Instead, we must strive for fairness and equity, recognizing the contributions of all members of society and ensuring that relief efforts are targeted towards those in genuine need while upholding the principles of accountability and responsibility.

The author is an attorney who resides on the Eastern Shore

Clayton A. Mitchell, Sr.

Stevensville, MD 21666