“Biden announced that he will—unilaterally, mind you, and for no apparent reason that I can see—extend the pause on student loan payments until the end of the year and forgive up to $10,000 for those persons making less than $125,000 a year. This generosity with other people’s money extends up to $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients.
As David Stockman, a former director of the Congressional Office of Management and Budget, reported recently, “Only 37% of Americans have a 4-year college degree, only 13% have graduate degrees and just 3% have a PhD or similar professional degree. Yet a full 56% of student loan debt is held by people who went to grad school and 20% is owed by the tiny 3% sliver with PhDs.”
Picture two young married lawyers who together earn just under $250,000 and are on their way to making even more mon ey in the future. They will be able to collect from Uncle Joe a nice bonus of $40,000, taken from the pockets of the many people who didn’t go to college—perhaps because they did not want to take on debt—and from those who have responsibly already paid back their debt.”
“even though student debt relief might not look like spending the way we traditionally think of it—the government isn’t cutting checks or awarding grants here, the way it did in the American Rescue Plan, for instance—economically, it will function the same way.
Because money is fungible, student loan borrowers will effectively now have extra discretionary income equal to whatever they would have had to pay towards that $10,000 in loans. That might sound great, but remember that the standard definition for inflation is what happens when a larger supply of money is chasing the same amount of goods and services. Money that would have been spent paying back loans will, upon the conclusion of the repayment moratorium, remain circulating in the regular economy. Ending the repayment moratorium without passing forgiveness would’ve been deflationary by returning U.S. dollars to Treasury.”
“colleges and universities will have even less incentive to lower costs. Economic researchers have often found that the government’s subsidized student loans cause educational institutions to jack up their prices for obvious reasons: If the feds cover the cost on the front end, no matter what it is, universities have every incentive to raise the sticker price. Forgiving student loan debt exacerbates this problem since it encourages more reckless borrowing. Indeed, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates the cumulative student debt level will return to current levels in just a few years.
There are structural incentives that push students to borrow money that they can never hope to pay back, and the fact that so many people have fallen into crippling debt is a compelling reason to change these incentives. No rule says the federal government must lure people down a path that leads to financial ruin with some frequency. Congress can sharply limit, or even end, this practice.
A one-off cancelation of some level of debt held by borrowers who happen to be in dire straits at this specific moment does nothing to fix the underlying problems; on the contrary, it exacerbates them. It is a slap in the face to everyone who either paid down their college debt or made different educational choices to avoid accruing it.
If Biden wanted to make the strongest conceivable case for forgiving some college debt, this course of action needed to be paired with serious changes to the entire higher education system. Otherwise, he is simply engaged in a vast transfer of wealth, taking hard-earned money from those who did not fall prey to the federal government’s scam and awarding it to those who did.”
“Loan forgiveness may encourage reckless borrowing, if today’s college students think they won’t actually have to pay back their loans. And this, in turn, could lead to even higher college tuition rates. It could also be inflationary more generally, by freeing up income for tons of people who may then drive up demand for goods and, along with it, prices.”
“The program amounts to a massive subsidy for middle-class Americans, as opposed to benefiting the most economically downtrodden or financially strapped. It provides a handout to many people for whom loan payments aren’t a problem now (someone making $125,000 per year can surely afford a few hundred dollars per month) or won’t be in the very near future (for instance, a doctor or lawyer on the verge of making big bucks who hasn’t quite gotten there yet). In short, the program “consumes resources that could be better used helping those who did not, for whatever reason, have a chance to attend college,” as economist Larry Summers put it on Twitter”
“Certainly not everyone who had to take out student loans was lazy, irresponsible, or anything of the sort. And not everyone without student loan debt is responsible or hard-working; many just lucked into having parents who could afford to pay for college. But there are many people for whom avoiding student loan debt or paying it off promptly meant making all sorts of sacrifices. Biden’s loan forgiveness program says to them that this thrift, practicality, etc. may have been for nought.”
“to simply write off existing student loan debt without addressing the source of the fast rise in college prices —which has a lot to do with the federal student loan program existing—is only ensuring ongoing problems.”
“The federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program, which effectively paid businesses to keep workers on their payroll even if they temporarily closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, was a mess.
After quickly burning through its initial allocation of $349 billion, the Paycheck Protection Program was reauthorized a few times and ended up costing more than $820 billion, making it one of the largest components of the federal government’s humongous COVID relief effort. Despite being lauded by both Democrats and Republicans, independent analysis found that the program was a hugely expensive failure. Only about one-third of the program’s money actually went to workers who would have otherwise lost their jobs, according to a National Bureau of Economic Research study. Another study by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis found that taxpayers paid roughly $4 for every $1 of wages and benefits to workers.”
“President Joe Biden announced that the federal government would forgive between $10,000 and $20,000 of student loan debt for qualifying borrowers who make less than $125,000 per year. But that wasn’t all: Biden also said that he would create a new income-driven repayment (IDR) system for college borrowers.
The IDR aspect of Biden’s plan attracted less scrutiny than the direct forgiveness aspect, which will cost at least $300 billion (and probably much, much more) in the immediate future. But in the long-term, this aggressive move toward an income-driven model of repaying college loans will probably have a bigger impact—and that impact will be catastrophic. In fact, unless the government does something to constrain colleges’ ability to set their own prices, IDR could break the entire higher education financing system and lead to skyrocketing costs for taxpayers.
There are some IDR programs available right now, but Biden’s approach would vastly expand this option. The existing plans require borrowers to pay 10, 15, or 20 percent of their income for two decades, at which point the rest of the loan is forgiven. Biden would make IDR much more appealing than it is currently; according to the Biden-Harris debt relief plan, borrowers will pay just 5 percent of their income (or 10 percent if they took out graduate student loans) for either 10 or 20 years depending on how much money they owe. The income threshold will be raised from 150 percent above the poverty line to 225 percent, and punitive interest rates will be eliminated.
All in all, this IDR model will be extremely appealing for a large number of borrowers, and we should expect the percentage of borrowers who are repaying via IDR to increase substantially in the coming years. But without further changes to the federal student loan program, this is going to be a huge problem.
That’s because both the borrowers and the universities will have increased incentive to bilk the people who actually make the loan: the taxpayers.
Under the current system, a prospective student needs a certain amount of money to pay for tuition at a university—say, $50,000—and borrows that sum from the government (i.e., the taxpayers). Later, the borrower pays it back, with interest. The university’s incentives are less than ideal; it might feel free to raise the price of tuition to $60,000, satisfied that the student really wants the degree, and will thus borrow more money, and deal with the consequences afterward. To the extent that the government loan program disguises upfront costs, it arguably contributes to rising tuition rates.
Under IDR, this situation gets much worse because the university and the borrowers have incentive to cooperate and screw the taxpayers. For the borrower, it doesn’t matter if tuition costs $50,000 or $5 million: The borrower will be repaying the same amount, 5 percent of income for 10 years, regardless of the size of the loan or the cost of tuition. Since it makes no difference to the borrower, the university might as well raise prices. This way, the university pockets more money, and the borrower doesn’t even have to pay it back.
Something close to this scheme already exists in law schools, which have Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAPS). According to leftist writer Matt Bruenig, the arrangement is very likely to produce increased tuition as universities and students figure out that they can essentially cooperate in this game to beat the house”
“Bruenig notes that Australia also uses IDR, but in Australia, the government prohibits universities from charging obscenely high tuition rates.
“If we are going to make the leap into an IDR-dominant college financing system, then we may need the government to also play a much bigger role in setting college prices, something it probably should have been doing even before the Biden policy change,” writes Bruenig. “Otherwise, we may very well see more unwanted cost bloat beyond what we already have.””
“One solution would be for the government, at a minimum, to set tuition prices for public, state universities—which, after all, are public and paid for by taxpayers. If the state is going to confiscate wealth from taxpayers in order to maintain public educational institutions, those institutions should be generally affordable to those same taxpayers.
Another idea would be to move to a system in which students don’t take out loans at all; instead of paying tuition, they agree to pay a percentage of their income to the university for some length of time after graduation. This would be like IDR, but it would cut out the government as the middleman, and thus get taxpayers off the hook. Purdue University President Mitch Daniels experimented with such a system, though it was paused earlier this year due to implementation difficulties.
By encouraging students to take on even more debt, and then never expecting them to repay it, the Biden administration is creating a system where everyone involved in higher education has incentive to fleece the American people.”
“The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) last week applauded President Joe Biden’s plan to cancel student loan debt, which it describes as “a racial justice issue.” That puzzling position encapsulates how far the venerable organization has strayed from the mission reflected in its name.
Under Biden’s new policy, borrowers earning up to $125,000 a year will be eligible for $10,000 in debt relief or twice that amount if they qualified for Pell Grants as students. The 43 million or so beneficiaries include many affluent people who could readily afford to pay off their loans, while the cost, which is projected to be at least $300 billion, will be borne by taxpayers, including Americans of relatively modest means.
Some of the people picking up the tab never attended college, while others struggled to do so without borrowing money or have already paid off their loans. But in the ACLU’s view, that seemingly unfair redistribution of resources is what racial justice demands.”
“it has nothing to do with protecting civil liberties. The 14th Amendment guarantees equal protection under the law, but it does not promise to eradicate racial disparities in educational or economic success.
As the ACLU sees it, however, any such disparities result from “centuries of structural inequities and racism.” The federal government therefore has a duty to ensure equal outcomes, which requires wide-ranging interventions, including welfare programs, education spending, job training, affirmative action, public housing, tax credits, and state-subsidized health care.
To give you a sense of how far afield that cause takes the ACLU from the defense of constitutional rights, the organization argues that “broadband access for all” is a racial justice issue because “people without broadband access are disproportionately Black, Latinx, Indigenous, rural, or low-income.” The ACLU describes the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which it urged the Supreme Court to uphold, as “a great civil rights law” because “it is not possible to fully participate in the economic, social, and civic life of our nation without stable health coverage.”
If “stable health coverage” is a prerequisite for fully participating in “the economic, social, and civic life of our nation,” so is stable housing, stable employment, and a stable supply of food, clothing, and transportation. Such reasoning expands the ACLU’s mission to include pretty much any domestic policy issue.”
“Under the terms of the settlement, the Department of Education will forgive roughly $6 billion in loans for 200,000 attendees of dozens of technical schools and for-profit colleges. The settlement also requires the Department of Education to reimburse borrowers who already made payments or even paid off the entirety of their loans. It is not clear how many borrowers covered by the settlement will receive loan forgiveness for outstanding debt and how many will receive full reimbursement for debt they already repaid.”
“Over the past two years, the Biden administration has approved debt forgiveness claims for thousands of former students at for-profit colleges. Earlier this month, the administration announced over $5.8 billion in loan forgiveness to former students of the now-defunct Corinthian Colleges.
However, the Department of Education’s role as the largest issuer of student loans in the country means that it continues to fund colleges and universities that fail to prepare students. Low standards for federal funding incentivize the creation of schools whose sole mission is to collect federal loan money. Even for-profit institutions that do serve the majority of their students still put taxpayers on the hook for attendees who can’t make the most of their education. Debt forgiveness for all borrowers, including nonprofit private colleges and public institutions, would have the same effect.”
“There is clear evidence that “federal student aid fuels the ivory tower’s infamous price inflation, including roughly a doubling, in real terms, of sticker prices between the 1991–92 and 2021–22 school years,” wrote Neal McCluskey, director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom. He continues: “It also makes logical sense: If you give loads of people easy money to pay for one thing, the price of that thing will rise as people demand more of it, and with greater bells and whistles.””
“At first glance, all of these loan forgiveness programs may seem to have merit. But they are all trying to paper over problems that the federal government created and that will continue to exist after the new rules go into effect. Forgiving billions of dollars in student loans means billions of federal dollars went to poorly run schools and students who were, in many cases, unprepared for college. While those students may deserve some kind of debt relief—and which very few of them can receive through bankruptcy—the Education Department continues to issue loans to unprepared students in order to attend poorly run schools.
The expansion of benefits offered by the PSLF program spells unique problems for taxpayers and future borrowers alike. Expanding eligibility to more kinds of “public service” workers, including employees of private companies and private contractors, is expected to cost over $13 billion in the next 10 years.
As with debt forgiveness for borrowers who are misled by their schools, PSLF on its face sounds like a good idea. If a student decides to take a career in public service—an essential but presumably low-paying job—then, after 10 years of payments, that student will be rewarded for his service by having a set amount of his remaining loan balance paid. However, those who work in the public sector often have the best job security, health care, and pensions among America’s middle-class workers.
What’s more, many professions counted as “public service” are some of the highest-paying positions in the entire job market. Physicians employed by nonprofit hospitals, for example, are eligible for PSLF. However, whether a cardiologist works for a nonprofit or a for-profit hospital, his yearly salary will likely top $400,000. Thus, prospective physicians can take on hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt for medical school, and only pay a fraction of the amount borrowed, while accruing millions of dollars in income over the course of their careers.
When academic deans can assure students that a large debt burden can be discharged by working for a nonprofit or the government after graduation, they can more easily justify exorbitant tuition costs. After all, why worry about borrowing a massive sum if you won’t have to repay it? The PSLF solution to high debt burdens for public sector workers has only aggravated the problem and will continue to. Once the government pours funding in the form of debt relief into the market for specific degrees, schools end up using these funds to justify hiking prices, thus generating a bigger student debt crisis. In turn, this enlarged crisis cries out for more government funding.
The solution to runaway student debt inflation is for the government to stop subsidizing tuition hikes. While limited debt relief for defrauded or disabled borrowers makes sense, the federal government needs to start making policy proposals that will attack the student debt crisis at its source—the cost of college attendance.
Student loan debt is a real and pressing problem for America’s poorest borrowers, but it is merely an inconvenience for millions of others, including many beneficiaries of PSLF. Solving the college cost problem in the long term requires getting the government out of the lending business.”
“Wiping out student loan debt for American college graduates would benefit the wealthy much more than it benefits less privileged students, according to a new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research. “Blacks and Hispanics would also benefit substantially less than balances suggest,” the authors say.
In the paper, titled “The Distributional Effects of Student Loan Forgiveness,” economists Sylvain Catherine and Constantine Yannelis conclude that universal student loan “forgiveness would benefit the top decile as much as the bottom three deciles combined.””
“”There are a number of ways in which debt can be discharged, with important distributional implications. For example, forgiveness can be universal, capped or targeted to specific borrowers. These debt cancellation policies can benefit different socioeconomic and ethnic groups. This paper explores their distributional impacts. We find that the benefits of universal debt forgiveness policies largely accrue to high-income borrowers, while forgiveness through expanding income-contingent loan plans instead favors middle-income borrowers.””
“full or partial loan forgiveness regardless of income and loan size would be “highly regressive, with the vast majority of benefits accruing to high-income individuals,””