President Joe Biden’s student loan debt relief plan should have been debated and voted on by Congress. For Biden, simply doing it is considered noble by some, political by others, appreciated by many, and not enough for some.
The Democrats should have been forced to make a choice. Half a trillion dollars can go to global climate change, or half a trillion to student debt relief, or hundreds of billions to computer chips, but you just can’t have it all.
Yes, we want our young people to have the opportunity to attend the best colleges and universities, where they can receive the highest possible levels of education and training. But we also need to seriously consider why the cost of colleges has increased so much.
There must be other options to the student loan problem than the following:
1. Pay off student loan debt over decades, or…
2. Destroy your credit by not paying off your student loan debt, which results in paying higher interest on everything you buy for decades.
Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan does not include lasting solutions. It does not address the issue of fairness. It can be perceived as alms.
We should give all students with student loans the opportunity to pay off some of their debt by being an “American helping Americans”.
We are giving members of our military a break on tuition. No one complains as we deem worthy. Why not take inspiration from this approach for student debt relief?
President John F. Kennedy had the Peace Corps, which allowed Americans to help developing countries.
President Bill Clinton tackled national issues with AmeriCorps. Our young people were encouraged to help poor Americans improve their lives.
President Jimmy Carter established Habitat for Humanity to build much-needed housing for the indigent.
President George HW Bush honored outstanding Americans who gave of themselves to help others with his Points of Light Awards. He also pushed Americans to help people with disabilities.
President George W. Bush encouraged the use of religious organizations to help Americans.
President Barack Obama has strongly advocated for the development of more mentors to serve as role models.
All these altruistic presidential programs were exceptional. Why not learn from them, build on each one, and create new must-have programs?
While combining all of these past programs and projects, let’s allow students to have some of their student loans forgiven or exchanged for service in the aforementioned presidential programs, while creating new ones to address new issues.
We can use the talents of our students and university graduates who can contribute hours of work that can be used as partial repayment of their student loan obligations. Foundations, nonprofits, and religious organizations could all expand their services with the additional — and free — labor from these programs.
More counseling, mentoring, coaching, tutoring, and just being there for people in an organized and auditable way would be a huge boon to America.
Allowing students to work on a portion of their student loans over time — a few hours a month, for example — can be a good option for many. They would contribute to the needs of so many Americans at the same time. Time has value.
I think we all agree – being in the military isn’t the only way to serve our country.
Gary Franks served three terms as United States Representative for Connecticut’s 5th District. He was the first black Republican elected to the House in nearly 60 years. He is the author of “With God, for God and for the Fatherland”. @GaryFranks