As the total amount of student debt nationwide hovers between 902 billion and a trillion dollars, it is easy to find young adults struggling to pay off the debt they have accumulated. This should come as no surprise as more and more families place greater importance on a college education and feel compelled to go regardless of their financial footing. Anyone who took Econ 101 understands that higher demand for a limited supply means prices rise. The cost of a four-year university education has doubled since 1982, and annual increases are common. College tuition has risen eight times faster than US wages, further inciting constant calls for higher education reform.
The meteoric rise of college tuitions and consequently student loan debt, has led politicians to advocate for the forgiveness of all student debt. A quick search of prominent Democratic politicians reveals the pervasiveness of their efforts to promote the forgiveness of these loans. Elizabeth Warren provides quick sound bites to win over unhappy teens stating her campaign will "provide universal tuition-free public two- and four-year college and technical school, ban for-profit colleges from receiving federal aid, and help end racial disparities in college enrollment and resources." Despite these types of calls from politicians, the forgiveness of student debt is immoral and should be avoided. Although Generation Z and the Millennials struggle to understand the downside of loan forgiveness, our Founding Fathers did not.
The forgiveness of debt was so unimaginable to our Founding Fathers that many went to extraordinary lengths to advocate against it. James Madison writes in Federalist 10 that the "abolition of debts" is an "improper or wicked project." The idea that one could sign a contractual agreement, fully understanding the money they would owe, then ask others to pay for it, was preposterous to our early Presidents. Additionally, George Washington stated, "No pecuniary consideration is more urgent than the regular redemption and discharge of the public debt. On none can delay be more injurious or an economy of time more valuable." However, this does not mean our Founders Fathers detested all debt.
Alexander Hamilton, who was one of the strongest advocates for the national debt, understood the value of being able to extend credit and take out a limited amount of debt. Hamilton argued as long as "a national debt, if it is not excessive, it will be to us a national blessing." However, there was a difference between public and personal debt. The Founding Fathers knew the value of taxes for public services such as police, military, roads, and post services. Unfortunately, today’s government is heavily engaged in taxing personal wealth so it can supply whatever special privileges are lobbied for the strongest. The vast amount of transfer seeking modern advocated for by today’s politicians would have horrified our founders. Our early leaders would have found it equally outrageous to suggest a confiscation of income from the general population in order to pay off the debt of today's Millennials.
Attending college is a privilege and a great honor, but that doesn’t make it a right that should compel others to pay for your ability to attend. Like any certification which proves competence in a select field, colleges offer certifications in knowledge to those who complete the required course of study. Student loans should always be available, and are a blessing, for students who are unable to afford tuition upfront. Those students should fully understand the level of financial responsibility they take on related to these loans. Each one of these students made a conscious decision to pursue an advanced degree and attend college. With this comes the financial responsibility that accompanied their choice.
College is not a right; much like a class C commercial driver’s license is not a right. Plenty of young adults learn valuable skills outside of college and earn a competitive wage that translates into a successful career and a comfortable lifestyle. Obtaining HVAC certifications to work on air conditioning units is costly, but surprisingly, no contractor asks you to forgive their debt or pay for their acquired certifications. It is frustrating to hear young adults complain about the debt they have chosen to take on and now expect others to support. The government does not have a vault full of ever replenishing currency. So why stop at college debt? Why not ask the government to pay for lifestyle choices too?
Any money supplied by the federal government is generated from individual taxpayers, that means you and me. To demand your fellow citizens to pay for your decisions related to higher education is selfish and unacceptable. Our Founding Fathers would have never stood for it, and neither should the US taxpayer.