Analysis & Comment

Opinion | What to Do About Student Loan Debt?

To the Editor:

Re “Is This Where We Are, America?,” by Roxane Gay (Op-Ed, Nov. 23):

I am a retired lawyer who spent hours reading federal student loan regulations in order to understand how and why my daughters’ 10-year-old student loan obligations far exceeded the amounts they had borrowed. The short answer was interest, interest, interest.

The lenders have been allowed to charge rates that far exceed national norms and that can be raised by loan consolidations. Forgiveness programs are an unfulfilled promise for many because of details that few students understand.

Perhaps the answer to those who object to complete student loan relief is for the government to pay off only the interest. The student would remain responsible for the principal. At the same time, more effort needs to be made to educate borrowers before they take out a loan about the long-term fiscal consequences.

Meg Kieran
Eugene, Ore.

To the Editor:

Even though I attended a public university, had a full scholarship for tuition and fees, worked and had subsidized housing through my church, I still needed a student loan from the federal government to pay for my undergraduate education at the University of Illinois.

I thought about walking away from the loan but decided that would be a bad idea. I did not go on to graduate school because I could never justify getting another degree when I still was paying for my first one. After working for 10 years, I paid off the loan.

When my two children went to private colleges, my husband and I paid for their education in full, prioritizing that over our own retirement, so that neither child would be burdened with debt after graduation.

Despite that history, I agree completely with Roxane Gay. Let’s forgive student loans. Let’s help unburden young people; they’re facing a world with enough severe problems already. Let’s affirm our social contract.

We are all in this together.

Susan E. Anderson

To the Editor:

Contrary to Roxane Gay’s theory of why people oppose canceling student debt, my reluctance to do so has nothing with wanting other people to suffer. It is simply that I do not believe we should be in the business of protecting people from the consequences of their own decisions.

If I buy a house that I can’t afford, nobody is going to step in and pay the mortgage for me.

I do think, however, that student loan programs could be better structured to lessen the burden on students and to better inform them of the reality of the obligations they are taking on.

I am sympathetic to those whose debts are crushing, but it isn’t something that just happened to them. They signed up for it and should have taken the time to consider what it meant.

Debra H. Frantz

To the Editor:

“Forgiveness of Loans Wouldn’t Tackle Roots of Student Debt Crisis” (The Upshot, Nov. 21) is an excellent recap of why we need to do more to fix the student loan debt problem than just forgive some loans.

One more suggestion is for Congress to expand and improve national service programs like AmeriCorps. Have a system that will allow students to do full-time public service for a year to earn enough money to pay the cost of college at state colleges for a year.

This is a victory for everyone: The students have the chance to do meaningful work and commit to a common cause, and the country gets help addressing unmet needs.

Catherine H. Milton
Menlo Park, Calif.
The writer, a former executive director of the Commission on National and Community Service, helped develop AmeriCorps.

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