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Four Reasons Why “Free” College and Student Loan Forgiveness Fail To Make The Grade

The Big Picture

“There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

According to President Biden, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and many other powerful, left-wing progressives, anything is “free” if the government pays for it–specifically, “free” college and student loan forgiveness. They believe that using government force to take from some people to give to others is the solution to every issue. We can get out of any bind with help from Big Brother.

Tuition-free college became especially popular in the 2016 presidential election. In Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, he prioritized “free” college for everyone. In President Biden’s 2020 campaign, he ran on a plan to forgive student loan debt, and make college “free.” Biden’s plan would cost a minimum of $750 billion. The huge cost of this plan would be put onto the backs of American taxpayers. The lie here is that college could ever be “free.”

The Department of Education recently announced that it was canceling the student loan debt of more than 40,000 students under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. Further, it gave at least three years of credit toward income-driven repayment (IDR) forgiveness for at least 3.6 million borrowers.

Beyond canceling already-existing student loan debt, however, Democratic Members of Congress are actively trying to make college “free” with the College For All Act of 2021 (H.R. 2730) sponsored by Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA). This bill does away with tuition and fees for nearly every college student. Where would this magic money come from? You and me–the taxpayers. Tuition-free college ignores warnings from many reasonable economists.

Biden, Jayapal, and others, can afford to virtue signal to like-minded, out-of-touch elites on the supposed virtues of a socialist system, including the “free” college idea and loan forgiveness–all while benefiting from America’s great capitalist system. However, “free” college and even student loan forgiveness are unworkable policies that will bankrupt Americans and their children.

The Details

  1. Nothing is “free”
  • Using the term “free” is deceptive. Only students currently going to college will benefit from “free” college while everyone around them pays the price. Think about everything that tuition pays for: professors’ salaries, campus upkeep, auxiliary staff, textbooks, resources, services, and more. In today’s economic climate of skyrocketing inflation, low- to middle-class taxpayers already have a hard time paying for their daily necessities. Now imagine piling on more government spending–which is driving inflation–to pay for the costs of student loan forgiveness and universal “free” college. What about the many people who have already paid off their loans, or chose not to go to college? Is this fair to them?

  • In the workforce today, 65% of workers do not have a college degree. Many people choose to avoid the loans and make the conscious economic decision to go to trade school or enter the workforce immediately after high school. They shouldn't be forced to pay for student loans that they purposely avoided.

  1. A degree will be devalued
  • Making college “free'' creates an atmosphere of apathy. The motivation to excel in high school to compete for academic or athletic scholarships, for example, would decrease exponentially knowing that tuition bills will be covered by the taxpayers. Students will have less motivation to work or save to pay for college. Free college means the hard work and discipline of saving–or studying or practicing to keep an academic or athletic scholarship–will not be necessary. Motivation will decrease while apathy increases.
  1. Government enslaves those who receive government money
  • If the government pays the tuition bills, the government will assume even more control over the curriculum in higher education. Whether in chemistry class or pottery class, the party in power is likely to assert their influence over instruction. This type of legislating already happens now wherever federal funds are involved. Federally-owned land is federally regulated, federally-funded health care is federally regulated, and so on. More federal government control over universities and colleges will pose a threat to the integrity of the college as an education and research institution, which should be free from political influence.

  • An example of federal overreach resulting from federal interposition into university finances is readily seen in the federal student loan program. The federal government insures these loans to effectively indemnify private lenders from people who fail to repay their student loans. The feds used participation in the federal student loan program to mandate that universities meet the requirements of Title IX. They reasoned that even if a private university receives tuition from a student who participates in the federal student loan program, the feds can impose compliance with certain federal programs like Title IX. Conversely, every school must comply with federal requirements if even one student receives such a loan.

  1. Government got us into this mess to begin with
  • These socialist policies leave us in a lose-lose situation. Even solely considering student loan forgiveness, future students will be left in the dust with much higher tuition than before. When more students are taking out loans, knowing they will be forgiven, colleges can hike up their prices.

Why it Matters

“Free” college and student loan debt forgiveness are dangerous and troubling to the average American taxpayer. Whether tuition or taxes are rising, these policies make it more difficult and expensive to live comfortably in America. Tuition-free college is the gateway to other “free” issues. Let’s not forget, if the government pays for it, the government ultimately decides what you get. What else will the government want to control? The car you drive, the home you buy? Will the government choose what we get to major in? Or what type of degree we get?

Government overreach leads to economic failure every time. The Leftist Democrats might think making college “free” or forgiving student debt will help the economy; but in reality it will balloon the deficit, accelerating inflation and making the necessities of daily life out of reach for more Americans.