Loans are investments, not donations
I applaud Andy Peng for his thorough coverage in “‘Occupy’ Protests Come to Pittsburgh,” which appeared in The Tartan this October. According to Peng, one popular anthem of the Pittsburgh protesters was “Bail out the students, not the banks.” Peng’s account of the protesters’ stated purposes shows that Pittsburgh isn’t immune to a growing epidemic in the United States: a careless attitude toward student loans.
While I do not wish debt upon anyone, I think that the “Occupy” protesters’ demands for student loan forgiveness indicate something just as harmful as the “corporate greed” they claim to resent.
Student loan debt could not have reached a staggering $952 billion (according to FinAid.org) without students first making hundreds of thousands of high-risk investments in higher education. Across the country, “Occupy” protestors have made excuses to the media for their own student loan debt, blaming others because they subscribed to a formula for achieving the “American dream” that didn’t work as well as they thought it would.
Student loans do not come with a “stable career after graduation or your money back” guarantee. On the contrary, loan repayment is a contractual responsibility.
I believe that a wise student is one who understands that getting an undergraduate degree is not obligatory; it is an investment that should only be made with great care. Each student should decide which type of college investment will yield the most favorable returns. For some students, this means enrolling in a reputable university and majoring in a highly demanded field. For other students, this means enrolling in an enriching college program where they plan to develop personally no matter what their job outlook will be after graduation.
It is apparent that President Obama has been listening to the “Occupy” constituents’ demands for change. Last Wednesday, Obama announced his commitment to enact the “pay as you earn plan,” which would enable income-based federal loan repayment for graduates.
According to whitehouse.gov, graduates “whose federal student loan debt is high relative to income and family size” will be eligible for this form of debt forgiveness as early as January 2012. I hope that the “pay as you earn plan” will remedy the student debt crisis, but I fear it will endorse and encourage irresponsible investments in higher education while shifting the repayment burden to taxpayers. In light of the student debt crisis that has revealed Americans’ lackadaisical regard toward student loans, we all must take investments in higher education more seriously.