Opinion | Let’s forgive student debt

The student debt crisis is harming far too many people — getting rid of it is something that must be priority one.


Ryan Adams

Photo illustration by Ryan Adams

Hannah Pinski, Opinions Columnist

This is a point-counter-point on student-debt forgiveness. An estimated 38.7 million Americans had student loan debt topping $1.6 trillion according to a 2019 report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Read our columnist’s article advocating against the cancellation of student debt here.

What two words can set off a stress response in pretty much any college student? Student debt.

Let’s face it. College is expensive. Many of my friends and I get nightmares about how long it will take to pay off just our undergrad, and some of us still have to pay for our masters and doctoral degrees.

However, student-debt forgiveness has been a long-standing debate. Joe Biden has announced he’s creating a plan to forgive student debt, sparking controversy on Twitter.

Nevertheless, Biden’s plan is something that many Americans need. Student debt should be forgiven because everyone deserves the chance to obtain higher education, and these loans harm students in the long run and disproportionately affect underrepresented and marginalized communities.

If we are expected to be the future leaders of America, the best chance for us to become them is to make sure we have the knowledge and experience to do so. We have always pushed the idea that anyone who wants to pursue higher education should be able to do so without drowning in debt.

However, student debt has become a barrier to the pursuit of higher education by young adults. Recent reports found that 56 percent of college students can no longer afford their tuition because of COVID-19, and have had to explore other options such as new financing, or dropping out altogether.

Unfortunately, student debt has become a life-long and harmful for people. A survey found that 61 percent of millennials said student debt has delayed them in buying a house. In addition, 84 percent of adults are struggling with the ability to save for retirement because of student loans.

We have always been encouraged to attend college for the benefits of a degree. However, these benefits come at a steep price that people are expected to pay for the rest of their lives. The desire to obtain a higher degree has become like a punishment, as the price of student debt haunts people for decades.

Forgiving student debt will relieve the future financial struggle of Americans. We shouldn’t feel like we’re being punished for wanting to obtain a degree, especially because it’s a concept America has always valued.

Student debt has also disproportionately affected minority students and has proven to be a racial issue. Just over 86 percent of Black students take out federal loans, compared to 59.9 percent of white students, which has contributed to the racial wealth gap. Studies have shown that the cancellation of student debt would shrink this gap about five times.

Research has also shown that Black students are more likely than white students to rely on larger loans, which causes them to struggle with repayments. This has in part curtailed Black families’ ability to build wealth, leaving students with fewer resources to pay for their education. If we want to end structural racism and promote equality of opportunity, part of the action must include forgiving student debt.

It’s unfair for debt to become a barrier for opportunity, disproportionately affect minorities, and punish people financially in the long run. Biden’s plan would expand opportunity, break down the roots of structural racism, and save students from future financial struggle.

It’s time we take the crippling stress off students and start investing in the future of America. Please, it’s time to make our lives easier and forgive student debt.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.