Perhaps you’ve noticed several economic issues in the news of late: autoworker contracts, no raise in the interest rate, a conviction for cryptocurrency fraud, and congressional squabbles over funding for at least two wars. Another matter that could impact many recent graduates of institutions of higher learning is a repeated attempt by the Biden administration to forgive student loans. You’ll recall that the Supreme Court rejected a previous plan. Given soaring interest rates, this new idea is to narrow the focus to borrowers who owe so much or who have such minimal income that it may be impossible for them to ever repay their loans. I’m thinking that may include students who majored in such in-demand subjects as Puppet Arts, Bicycle Design, Biomimicry, Costume Technology, and Foresight, et al. (Yes, those are all real.)
The first proposed bailout plan was supposed to cost taxpayers around $400 billion. That included canceling $20,000 in federal student loans for people with annual incomes below $125,000 (or couples below $250,000). A rather substantial percentage of the workforce would have been eligible. But the high court said, “Fat chance.” As of now, there doesn’t seem to be a price tag available for the new version.
Has it occurred to anyone else that part of the debt problem may not just be the borrowers, but the price of the services offered by the colleges and universities? I saw one report citing the average total salary for a professor to be just shy of $90,000 per annum. That’s not Bill Gates-level money, but it’s not a bad chunk of change. Especially when you consider that many of those in academia teach only a few classes each week, have the same holiday schedule as students (including summers off), and often are eligible to take a long-term sabbatical at regular intervals. And because of tenure, it can be almost impossible to fire a professor. Is that the deal at your work?
If local school districts are any gauge, there’s probably a little fat in the administrative budgets at every post-high school institution as well. School district superintendents seem to have a plethora of assistant superintendents. At colleges, there are often multiple people with the title “Dean.” Are they and their staffs all necessary? I don’t know. I’m just asking. When companies get too top heavy, they simply lay off people. When’s the last time you heard about a university reducing its cost of operation?
But back to student debt. You know, maybe one way to make college more affordable is to have the schools themselves be the lenders. Leave the federal government out of it. Suppose students who need financial help receive it solely from the coffers of whatever schools they want to attend? Surely every institution has one of its myriad deans in charge of doling out cash. If the loans come directly from the school, repayment would go directly back to that school. That way, should there be a default, the college would have to figure out what to do rather than involving the taxpayers.
While that may work for the future, what’s to be done for those in debt now? Well, the people of Georgia may have a chance to be heroes. It seems the state has $11 billion or so in reserves right now. According to reports, some say to spend it on childcare. Others suggest upgrading school busses. Or give raises to state workers. Expand healthcare programs. How about take care of aging bridges and roads and sewer systems? Of course, the state could always give the money back to the fine folks who donated to the cause in the first place.
OR . . . Georgia could take that $11 billion and help bail out students who, for whatever reason, haven’t paid back their loans. I’m sure being kind to others would warm the cockles of every person’s heart who sent a check to the Georgia Department of Revenue. Think of all the thank-you notes taxpayers would receive from those whose new balance is zero. No doubt every recipient would take a cue from those old Bartles & Jaymes TV commercials. You know, the ones that featured two older gentlemen who often sat on a front porch and chatted about new things they’d learned or projects they were working on. After pitching the great taste and all the virtues of having a party with B&J, each commercial always ended with one of them saying, “And thank you for your support.” Surely that would be an apt way to salute all those Georgia taxpayers who would want to donate their tax dollars to pay off student loans.
Hey, somebody have a better idea?
©MMXXIII. William J. Lewis, III – Freelance Writer