Forgive or Forget?

posted in: News | 0

Anthropology Professor Aaron Greer on long-term alternatives to President Biden’s ill-fated Student Loan Relief Plan

Around the time when Fall Term started, millions of student loan borrowers rejoiced at the announcement of President Biden’s Student Loan Relief plan—a proposal to relieve borrowers of the excessive financial burden of higher education by forgiving up to $20,000 of qualifying federal student loans. The plan also hopes to cut the average student loan payment annually by over $1,000 by ensuring undergraduate students don’t pay loans that above 5 percent of their discretionary income. In addition, the plan’s fact sheet published by The White House states that “borrowers who have worked at a nonprofit, in the military, or in federal, state, tribal, or local government, receive appropriate credit toward loan forgiveness.”

   Unfortunately, all of this only applies to past loans, not future ones (sorry current students)—and even then, that dream may come toppling down as it took a detour from Congress, where it already was struggling for approval, to the Supreme Court, where it faces stern opposition.

   The proposal has been met by the public with both optimism and opposition. According to a NBC News poll conducted immediately after the plan’s announcement, nearly four out of five Democrats (78%) like the idea; a dramatic party-line difference, with only 11% of Republicans expressing favor. A primary basis for the political opposition—and the basis for arguments at the Supreme Court—is the notion that the president over-reached his allowed power. Not surprisingly though, the plan has 69% support from those holding loans, party-line be damned.

   In an interview with The Pacific Index, Professor of Anthropology Aaron Greer stated that he “(w)ould be very surprised if [President Biden] is able to pull it off the way that he wants to. There is too much opposition and, frankly, I think it comes down to a very … anti-intellectual culture the United States has.” Greer added that this is due to the plan being essentially a “one-shot deal” that temporarily provides relief to a generation before the next generation has to deal with the issue of college debt; like gladiators battling a monster for the entertainment of others. “It’s not gonna move the needle at all,” he said later.

   While the Student Loan Relief plan would alleviate chronic, unmanageable debt many Americans face decades after the end of their academic careers, it doesn’t change the student financial aid systems. Greer explained, “the plan does not have much policy implications for any university.”

   Considering the difference between forgiving past accrued debt and systemic changes to how we fund higher education, Greer said, “what a bunch of [advocacy] groups are working on is debt forgiveness,” but this misses the roots of the issue of rising debt amounts. He asked, “how can we create an economic environment where students don’t have to go into massive debt to get an education?”

   In Greer’s view, the financial system that controls the lives of those within it is largely to blame for Americans’ mountains of student debt. This is caused by the system only existing to support itself and not those living in it, creating ever more financial barriers and obligations to keep the people from advocating for reform.

   Greer believes our society should reassess the “pay scale for what we value.” By placing more financial value on the people in this system, not just what is produced by the people, debt can be reduced long-term, thus leading to higher spending power by the average student, thereby helping the economy to grow from within.

   In the meantime, Pacific could produce its own debt relief program, but, according to Greer, “it would take a very wealthy group of alumni to contribute money. They would have to create an endowment [to pay off the debt].”

   The Student Loan Relief plan proposed by the Biden Administration would provide some relief for certain students. However, the plan appears to be overly ambitious and fails to address the true causes of this situation.

   For students who will continue to take out future student loans, Greer said, “One of the main things that students can do is apply for a lot of scholarships. … You can apply for scholarships after you’ve started college.” In Professor Greer’s view, to truly address the student debt crisis, government representatives must adopt a broad, long-term focus on creating financial programs and policies which honestly provide people with life, liberty, and the pursuit of (financial) happiness. — Troy Pigman, with reporting by Lily Rasmussen


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *