The case for student loan debt forgiveness

JAMES CLINGMAN | 5/25/2015, 8:14 a.m.
By the time you read this article, millions of college students will have graduated and be looking for jobs, many ...
James Clingman

(NNPA) – By the time you read this article, millions of college students will have graduated and be looking for jobs, many will be going on to grad school and millions will suddenly be faced with paying off college loans or contemplating obtaining a loan for graduate studies. Neither option is attractive.

Even if students are fortunate enough to have a job when they graduate, if they are laden with tens of thousands of dollars in debt, it will be very difficult to save money for their future, pay living expenses and costs associated with the job they accept, and make $300-$600 in monthly payments for college loans.

For those moving on to grad school, unless they have a fellowship or some other kind of grant, they will have a tough decision to make when the loan officer at their school or the bank says, “No problem, here’s a $30,000 check to pay for your degree.” I hate to think what it costs for a medical degree these days.

At more than $1 trillion, having surpassed credit card debt, college loan debt is an albatross around the necks of students, some of whom had no idea of what they were getting into and some who did know but refused to do anything about it until now, when it’s too late.

With the job market the way it is and has been for Black people for decades, some graduates will have an overpriced college degree without a commensurate job prospect. They will be faced with the challenge of paying back their loans while looking for a job that does not exist. Or, they will have to accept the prospect of joining the ranks of the underemployed.

This is indeed a sad state of affairs for our best and brightest, the grandchildren of the baby boomers. It is said that millennials, as they are called, are the first generation that will be worse off than their parents. Most parents want their children to do better than they did, and most parents participate in that aspiration by putting a little money aside to help their children get off to a reasonable start in life. However, in today’s economic climate, there is very little of that kind of help available from parents who are struggling just to pay the rent and keep the lights on.

What can we do?

High on our agenda should be a demand made, to Congress and whomever is running for president, for student loan debt forgiveness. A strong, independent bloc of voters must go to candidates in both parties and make this demand. Keep in mind, however, as I have said before, a demand without power backing it up is just rhetoric. I think we have heard enough and had enough of empty words by some of our leaders to know that it will take more than just asking for what we want. We must be willing to withhold our votes in order to get what we want and that goes for both parties.