The student loan forgiveness frenzy has jumped the shark with Sen. and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders vowing to forgive all student loans. Unlike Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s plan, Sanders does not means test forgiveness and it would include all public, private, and undergraduate and graduate degree loans. The total cost for the plan comes out to $2 trillion over 10 years. A pretty disastrous price tag for a federal government already $22+ trillion in debt. Everybody would get debt forgiveness under his plan, including attorneys at high priced firms or specialized physicians drawing huge salaries. If you dig a little bit into his plan, you’ll see taxes on every trade of stocks and bonds, talk about a disaster for the middle class and their retirement plans.
Clearly, Sanders threw his proposal out there trying to brunt Warren’s recent surge in the polls. Warren’s been offering a plethora of “free” goodies, including her most recent proposal, reparations for LGBT couples.
A lot of the talk and promises surrounding this “free” stuff is occurring without simultaneous discussions of our national debt or even the feasibility of implementing these programs given our separation of powers. But wild and lavish promises have been made for centuries on the campaign trail and in fairness to some of the Democrats, Congress and the federal budgetary process has been eschewing any sane spending restraints for decades.
What do North Carolinians think about all this talk of student debt relief? This was something we covered in our latest Civitas Poll.
Here are the highlights:
Q. How serious of a problem do you believe student loan debt is in the United States?
Very serious 64%, Somewhat serious 20%, Not very serious 7%, Not a problem at all 3%, Unsure/Refused 6%, Total Serious 84%, Total Not Serious 10%.
Q. In your opinion, which of the following is the cause of the student loan debt problem?
Too many students want to go to college 5%, Federal financial aid has worked to drive up the cost of tuition 40%,
A weak economy has prevented students from getting good starting jobs 11%, Irresponsible decisions by students to borrow 19%, None of the above/Something else 18%, Unsure/Refused 8%.
Q. Do you favor or oppose a federal proposal to partner with state governments tuition free 2-year and 4-year college degrees at public universities, paid for with taxpayer dollars?
Strongly favor 29%, Somewhat favor 18%, Strongly oppose 33%, Somewhat oppose 10%, Unsure/Refused 9%, Total Favor 47%, Total Oppose 43%.
Q. Should government pay off student loan debt?
Yes 29%, No 57%, Unsure/Refused 14%.
Q. Do you believe today’s college graduates have more or less economic opportunity than previous generations, OR do they have about the same level of opportunity?
More opportunity 26%, Less opportunity 32%, About the same 32%, Unsure/Refused 9%.
Most North Carolinians believe students should pay back their loans while the vast majority see it as a serious problem. Perhaps a little surprising is that a plurality of likely voters (47 percent) think the government should cover the total cost of a college education at a public college or university. The crosstabs on the poll are interesting given that females hold almost two-thirds of all student debt. It’s also important to note that the government already has programs to wipe out student loans through forgiveness programs for qualified non-profit work or military service. Some employers are even starting to make student loan payments as part of their benefits package.
There is little doubt that federal financial aid has worked to inflate the cost of higher education, dramatically in fact. Many North Carolinians seem to recognize this aspect of the crisis. Colleges have been in an arms race of sort to expand administrative staffs and facilities to compete and suck up more dollars.
One of the best solutions to this crisis is to detangle the federal government as a lender and let the market have more of an immediate impact. Merely bailing out students, which is, in essence, a bailout of the false market of college costs through loan schemes, will not rectify the situation. Already, many families and students are wising up to the detriments of the current system and looking into lower-priced alternatives, particularly community colleges, military service (where you can enlist and have college paid for), trade schools, or just deciding to join the workforce earlier. The higher education bubble is already bursting to some degree. It seems unwise to prop it up anymore, and our poll shows 57 percent agree.
Ultimately, to solve the debt crisis in this country on all fronts, it’s going to take the citizenry to get their financial affairs in order and demand the same from lawmakers. It’s hard to do that now given that we are living in a culture of debt and consumption. If nothing changes, the unrealistic promises for “free” stuff at the expense of taxpayers and future generations will continue unabated, threatening long-established norms of property rights.