Much has been said about President Joe Biden’s plan to forgive $10,000 to $20,000 of student loan debt. The income cap (individuals making over $125,000 per year will not be included in the plan) does little to limit the massive spending the government will incur in wiping out this debt. This is an irresponsible policy; it doesn’t accomplish anything long-term. If colleges will continue to charge exorbitant tuition rates and the federal government will continue to loan young people exorbitant amounts of money to pay those tuition rates, we will inevitably end up in the same place later.
To really fix the problem, Republicans must muster up the courage to abolish the federal student loan system entirely.
Why are we using federal tax dollars to subsidize young people going to overpriced schools, where they are not only being propagandized but often are not graduating with real, useful workforce skills?
If conservatives aren’t ready to propose that the federal student loan system should be abolished totally and immediately, an incremental approach could be to cap federal tuition loans to a certain dollar amount, say $10,000 per student per year. This would at least start making people think more carefully about why it is worth paying such high tuition, if the federal government will not cover the cost and attending these institutions will saddle them with high-interest private loans. If the federal government keeps loaning the money to pay exorbitant tuition rates, students have no incentive to stop paying those rates and schools have no incentive to control their tuition costs and their spending.
Discourage Needless Credentialing
Besides the structural fix, conservatives ought to engage on the grassroots level. Young people should be encouraged to think about trade school or practical professional training (nursing, cooking school, etc.) rather than assume they must head right to a four-year school without a career plan. Additionally, we should encourage eliminating unnecessary credentialing wherever possible. There has been a movement away from requiring unnecessary credentials in the world of policy and government, such as getting a law degree for the purpose of going into politics.
I’ve talked to and mentored young people who are undergraduates and want to get into the world of government, politics, and policy. They all seem to consider law school but don’t actually want to practice law. I do my best to dissuade them and you should too. We need to mentor young people to find better ways to create career paths without spending unnecessary time and money on school credentials that are increasingly useless, if not harmful.
Basically, we have a cultural crisis. Young people finish high school with no sense of where they want to go, so they go to college. The federal government loans them tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of dollars to go there. They graduate and realize that they either still don’t know what they want to do, or don’t have useful credentials to do it. And now they have enormous amounts of student debt. So where do they head next with their debt and lack of certitude about the future? To graduate school. Don’t worry, the federal government loans them the money for those exorbitant tuition payments too. And if the right president is in office, maybe those loans will be forgiven. If you look at it this way, it is madness.
We have both a cultural problem with the way our young people think about their future and a structural problem with the federal student loan system. The cultural change may take many years of teaching young people to look at education, credentials, and careers differently. But the structural problem should be addressed boldly, as soon as Republicans take back control of Washington, D.C. Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin showed that fighting the cultural battle on education can be a winning issue for Republicans, and the battle for higher education is critical. Conservatives need to identify and campaign on substantial educational reforms. Part of this should be the end of the toxic federal student loan system that allows irresponsibly high tuition rates to be put on the backs of our young people.