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Readers write: How to address student loan debt

Letters to the editor for the June 7, 2021 weekly magazine. Readers discuss college affordability and loan forgiveness.

Fourth year free

While I found the April 26 and May 3 article “College affordability, loan forgiveness, and a path to the future” informative, it tried to cover two discrete issues that are exceedingly complex. In my opinion, this warrants at least two different articles, if not more. 

Future legislation to address increasing college costs will do nothing to alleviate the current debt burden of Richelle Brooks and millions of others like her. And, as the writer noted, “Debt relief wouldn’t do anything to stem the spiraling cost of college or reduce future students’ reliance on loans.”  Each of these issues merits attention; combining the two into a single article conflates the two, as though we can “kill two birds with one stone.”

It would be valuable to have a graph comparing the average Pell Grant to the total cost of in-state tuition in the 1980s or 1990s and a similar comparison with the current costs. I would also be interested to learn what percentage of those with massive student debt were victims of the predatory loan system.

I was outraged that this article includes discussion about which income group would most benefit from loan forgiveness. No one tries to undermine K-12 public schools by decrying that the rich will get the same education for free. 

Finally, I will offer my own alternative to the current movement of free junior college. “Fourth year free” would fully fund any student who has made it through the first three years of university. This will provide an incentive to remain in school and get good grades, as well as pay for the higher-level courses, which are more expensive than the introductory courses of the first three years.

Rusty Wyrick
Ghivizzano, Italy 

Employer pays

The article “College affordability, loan forgiveness, and a path to the future” says there are two ways to ease the burden of college debt long term: bending the cost curve and shifting more of the responsibility for paying for college back onto taxpayers. However, there is a third way: shifting some of that payment responsibility onto employers. 

Employers are among the primary beneficiaries of their employees’ college educations yet, except for a few voluntary tuition reimbursement programs, they bear none of the cost. Naturally, since their employees’ educations are free from their point of view, employers’ demand for education is insatiable. This relentless demand from employers for ever higher levels of education from their employees is a main driver of student debt loads. 

A requirement that employers bear part of the cost of their employees’ college educations would ease the student debt burden in two ways: directly by reducing the payment responsibility of students, and indirectly by lowering the demand for college education.

Eric Klieber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio

Tax-deductible debt

Regarding the article “College affordability, loan forgiveness, and a path to the future,” I have long wondered why the full amount of one’s student loan repayments can’t be deducted from one’s income when preparing taxes. 

We currently are able to deduct up to $2,500 in interest, but for large debt holders, that is always maxed out, and it pales in comparison to the full debt repayment made each year for the vast majority of borrowers. 

Furthermore, for those with the ability to pay for college without loans, the cost of education is deductible for the same year when that tuition is paid. Why not extend this benefit to those who can’t afford to pay for college while in college? This is such a simple form of relief, and it addresses many of the concerns about unfairness for those who are making enough money to pay off their loans early.

Mike Schowalter
Minneapolis

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