Americans have taken out over $1.6 trillion in student loan debt — far exceeding the amount of credit card debt, with an average bachelor’s degree requiring about $37,000 in student loans to achieve. Many students still live with parents and put off purchasing homes or having children due to the student loan debt. Just like the housing bubble that caused so much turmoil 10 years ago, the inability to repay these loans could lead to an economic downturn. Many fall into difficulty and can’t make the payments, which has resulted in extremely harsh and difficult collection activity against our fellow Americans by our own government.
Bill Clinton signed the law in 1998 that student loans should no longer be non-dischargeable and exempted from the fresh start allowed in bankruptcy. There is a limited hardship discharge, but it requires you to be so disabled that you cannot hold any kind of a job, and it is so expensive to prove that most people unable to work don’t see any value in it.
To illustrate, the amount of loans allowed in some cases far exceeds economic realities. One example is a professor, who, at age 45, was awarded a Ph.D. in sociology after 12 years of college education and found that in his field he could make $3,000 a month. His student loan obligation was $350,000 and the monthly repayment $3,543 a month. Situations like this lead some to believe that schools desperate for cash have turned a blind eye to imprudent students. Creditors are encouraged under current law to do as much lending as possible as student loans since bankruptcy does not apply.
Having observed the broken dreams and crushing economic reality faced by many elderly and young people buried in student loans, the Democratic solution is forgiveness. This would be more than double the bailout proposed in the 2008 Great Recession, and lenders would need another bailout to survive.
Bill Clinton tried to increase homeownership by relaxing mortgage requirements, and that bore fruit in the 2008 collapse and signed the law getting rid of student loan discharges to encourage more lending. Clinton may have been trying to help raise people out of poverty, which is an admirable thing, but the real answer to stopping the student loan mess is restoring the ability of bankruptcy courts to adjust student loans as it was in the past. This will restore sane lending decisions. Student loans have been a blessing to educate our nation and we need to restore integrity to the program, just as we have had to do in our mortgage lending.
The road to hell is paved with the best intentions. Learn from our recent past — if you are thinking that student loan forgiveness is a policy worth voting for, think again. It’s time to reverse the damage done by Democratic based policies that we can get something for nothing.