Democratic nominee Joe Biden wants a new program that would forgive up to $10,000 a year in college debt for those who go into “public service.”
Market Watch described the Biden plan:
According to the proposal, “Individuals working in schools, government and other non-profit settings will be automatically enrolled in this forgiveness program; up to five years of prior national or community service will also qualify.”
Why is a government or a non-profit job considered more beneficial to society than holding down, say, a “dirty job,” starting a new business? Why is a graduate in a non-profit more worthy of debt relief than somebody who is struggling to create a small business that might succeed and hire other people?
I work for a non-profit and I think our sector does a valuable job of educating people on issues for the creation of a society that makes people’s lives better. But I would not regard my job as more valuable to society than that of Antoinette Jackson, an auto-mechanic.
Not everyone would agree with me. Sandy Baum thinks Biden’s proposals are a positive:
“I think putting this policy on the table is a positive step,” says Sandy Baum, senior fellow at the Urban Institute and professor emerita of economics at Skidmore College. “One main benefit of this proposal would be that we would get more people to do public service work.”
Tying loan forgiveness to some form of public service gives policymakers the opportunity to create a sustainable and cost-efficient program while also providing work opportunities that could be particularly valuable for recent graduates, she says.
“We’re talking about something that is an exchange for services. And those services, if properly organized and defined, will bring a real benefit to society so we’re not just, you know, throwing money into the ocean. We’re actually getting something in exchange for it,” says Baum. “In addition to the fact that we’re giving people money to spend, and they will spend it in the economy.”
I would not denigrate public service (especially if it is unpaid, volunteer public service at some place that requires manual labor!). Jobs in school and government are, however, no more worthy of special treatment than other ordinary, get your hands dirty jobs.
As for giving money to people, which they will then spend, aiding the economy, well, ordinary jobs pay people, too. That is what they do.
The college loan fiasco has burdened so many lives.
I’m not surprised that the former Vice President wants to find a way to help people groaning under the burden of debt.
But he’s not addressing the real root issues: Why has college tuition skyrocketed? And, most of all, what kind of adults, whether politicians or lenders, allow people in their late teens to take on crippling debt? And why do we not respect jobs that do not require a college degree?
To find a solution to the college loan disaster, we need to think through our values, which created this monster in the first place.