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Support is needed for those with education debt

Peter Goodman


It’s been interesting to watch the popular reaction to Joe Biden’s belated move on federal student loan forgiveness. Student loan borrowers with annual incomes under $125,000 will be eligible for forgiveness of $10-20,000.

Lots of Facebook memes about how someone busted butt to pay her loan off. Baby Boomers shouting “unfair!” – and a few kids or grand kids shrugging back, “Well, you always told me ‘Life is Unfair.’ So, like you told me, ‘Get used to it!’”

Of course Christians don’t join in the angry protests. Early on, they read Matthew 20:1-16. They understand Jesus’s point that if I contracted to weed a vineyard for eight hours for six shekels, and at closing time the landowner paid me six shekels, and paid six to some guy who came to work after lunch, it shouldn’t get my nose out of joint. (Some may figure Matthew was a Communist because Mark omitted that parable.) To me, Jesus might be saying, “Listen, if my Father forgives some sinner who turned to Him late in life, lifelong good folks should welcome him to the fold, not grumble.” Elsewhere Jesus points out, in a line we desert-dwellers can appreciate, that God sends rain both on the just and on the unjust.

Irritation is understandable, among both the vineyard laborers and folks who worked diligently to pay off their school loans, as well as among those who pay taxes they now figure will go to compensate the government for forgiven school loans.

Oddly, the same folks are far less irritated by huge corporate bailouts and tax breaks for the wealthy, and are annoyed Biden wants to arm the IRS to collect more of what corporations and the wealthy owe us. Some of the folks cursing Biden for helping education debtors may idolize Donald Trump, whose many failures to pay his debts have cost investors and tradespeople dearly. Go figure!

In my college days, tuition wasn’t such a huge burden. Tuition’s higher now; and colleges have moved from scholarships to student loans, which hang around students’ necks. Some debtors were bilked by fly-by-night “schools” like Trump University, with false promises, then left owing money for credits no real school would honor. Others are mired in crazy deals in which they’ve paid monthly, but actually owe more than the initial loan!

Parents and a small scholarship helped me through college. As an NMSU grad student, I worked as a graduate assistant, teaching, and also as a freelance filmmaker. Later, law school generated such a mountain of debt that instead of returning to Las Cruces, I started at a top San Francisco law firm, at a high salary. Inflation during the early ‘80’s made my debts seem smaller. I lived frugally. Within five years, I’d paid it all off. (Talk about a fortunate laborer!)

Widespread education benefits all of us. Maybe that’s why, in many countries, it’s free. Educated people are more productive, more able to read and listen critically to political, economic, and other important material, and more likely to instill in their kids a love for books and learning, and even creativity.

As with health care, our wonderfully wealthy country is way behind, largely because we still let big corporations, banks, and the obscenely wealthy take more than their fair share of what our country produces.

Let’s support these folks, whose educations contribute to our society, and spare the next generation of college students such a heavy burden.