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If You’re Mad That Students Will Have Some Debt Forgiven Because You Didn’t, Just Know That Everyone Hates You

Joe Biden gestures while speaking passionately into a podium microphone.

When Joe Biden announced he would be forgiving $10,000 of student loan debt for millions of Americans, there seemed to be only two reactions: that Biden’s plan doesn’t do enough, and that it does too much. Speaking as someone firmly in the former group, I would like to personally invite everyone in the latter group to get bent.

A lot of Republicans are opposing Biden’s plan, claiming that it does too much, goes too far, and will encourage students in the future to take out exorbitant amounts, knowing they’ll just be forgiven in the end. That, it should be obvious, is nonsense. We’re talking about $10,000 for most people, that’s not the Super Lotto. Also, there are lots of other details in Biden’s plan that only apply to people who don’t take out more than $12,000 in loans while in school. There’s literally no incentive for people to take out more money than they already would have but this will very likely encourage people who wouldn’t have thought college a possibility to consider attending.

The other argument against student loan debt forgiveness even worse—so much worse. The “I suffered and struggled so everyone should suffer and struggle” brigade is out in full force today. These are the people who believe that because they had to pay off their loans, nothing should ever change for anyone or any future generation ever.

The history of student loan debt is not stagnant and it’s also, whether these people know it or not, based on a foundation of racism and classism. The ACLU has a great breakdown of that history and the ways in which student loan debt is a racial justice issue, including the unequal funding of HBCUs and the ways in which Black students were refused access to GI Bill benefits. But here’s an especially key bit:

Yet by the end of the 20th century, just as Black and Brown students and women gained entry after decades-long legal battles and social struggles, reactionary policymakers shifted the significant costs of higher education from the public to individual families. What had been considered a public good when it was predominantly for white men, became a public burden to be shifted to families.

College hasn’t always cost this much. It used to be affordable when it was designed for white elites, because it was deemed to be a public interest. But in the decades since, as a college education becomes normalized for low-income and middle-class families, suddenly it’s an individual, not public, cost. Meanwhile inflation has increased the cost of everything while minimum wage stays the same. These things are not accidents.

Also, on the most basic level, shouldn’t we want things things to improve for future generations? As is, it’s a lot of the same people chastising those younger than them for not doing the things they did themselves—buying houses, getting married, having children—without acknowledging that crushing financial debt, accrued from things previous generations didn’t experience in the same ways, is largely responsible for that.

But really, even if a person is not willing to accept that student loan debt is classist, racist, and looks entirely different than it did even just a few decades ago, if there’s a chance to relieve even one burden for future generations looking to access higher education, why would you oppose that? That is objectively the wrong take and those people should be embarrassed.

(image: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.