Thursday, August 25, 2022

The year of the Jubilee (sort of)

Lots of press, largely negative, about the loan forgiveness plan announced yesterday by the Biben administration. I freely admit to not being an expert, but I agree with John Hawthorne's take, as well as the first look by Bob on Books.

Now, for those of you who whine about your loans being paid by yourself over the course of x years and not getting any forgiveness, let me share my story. I finished classroom work on a PhD in ancient Mediterranean studies in 1988 from the University of Chicago. Even with a full-ride and stipend, I still was the equivalent in today's money of over $100,000 in debt.

I couldn't find a job in my field, so I went back to warehouse work, which is what I had done during college on the breaks (among many other things!). After about three months, I got a job as a warehouse manager making the equivalent of less than $50,000. This is with two kids. We chose for Debbie to be a full-time homemaker. (Several reasons for that, some financial—she would have had to make more than the going wages to cover the overhead—and others because we both felt it was important for our kids to have someone at home for them. We don't regret that decision.)

I consolidated all my loans into a Sallie Mae one that was for thirty years. It took us twenty years to pay off the loan—and the only reason we paid it off that early was because when I got hit by a truck on my bicycle, the insurance settlement gave us an extra $10,000, which we put toward the student loan.

The irony is that up until the time the loan was paid off, I had only worked five years in an area that was related to my college education (Eisenbrauns). BUT—and this is extremely important—the skills I learned in the course of my college education enabled me to excel in the jobs I had. It enabled me to apply critical thinking to problem solving that others were stumped by. It enabled me to look at the entire picture and formulate a plan before just diving in. It enabled me to save the companies I was working for many thousands of dollars. My goal was to save the company double my salary every year in cost-savings—but not by cutting employees wages. In fact, I was always fighting for better wages for my employees, showing management that it was cheaper to pay a higher wage to avoid high turnover than it was to keep rehiring and retraining all the time. (It was an uphill battle…)

Do I wish that the loan forgiveness program had existed back then? Sure. Do I resent the fact that others are "getting off easy"? No.

Is the loan forgiveness plan perfect? No. It has many problems, but as John Hawthorne points out, it's a good start. Now we need to start improving it and taking a serious look at the whole model of higher education, as Bob on Books says.

Face it, our country has a serious problem investing in its infrastructure—people and physical infrastructure. But what else do you expect when the prevailing attitude is that of a couple of grade school kids fighting over something, saying, "Mine! Mine! Mine!"

Just an
</idle musing>

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