What’s Fair is Fair?

I’ve been interested in and amused by plans that Democratic presidential candidates have been floating for making a college education more affordable. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s plan involves offering all those who currently hold student loans $50,000 of amnesty. It would cost hundreds of billions of dollars, which some conservatives find scary. My objection to the plan lies in the belief that it would cause eventual (and massive) increases in the cost of obtaining a higher education. When colleges find out that students will be able to borrow an additional $50k, do you expect them to freeze tuition and other costs? If so, I’ve got a bridge in Tibbee to sell you.

However, a more conservative qualm to Warren’s plan involves fairness. As Dan Meagan puts it in theatlantic.com, cultural conservatives have a fundamental problem with the way that it penalizes people who do things the proper way:

Consider a hypothetical comparison of two people who graduated from college five years ago with equal amounts of debt. Jessie successfully implemented a plan to pay off the debt in five years, while Sam still has much to repay. Warren’s plan forgives Sam’s debt, but offers nothing to Jessie, despite her industriousness and self-discipline. To add insult to injury, Jessie must contribute tax dollars to the $640 billion fund necessary to forgive outstanding loans, including Sam’s.

In this example, Jessie would rightfully feel put upon. More broadly speaking, conservatives have an understanding of what fair that relies on proportionality. If you put something into a system, you have the right to expect something out of it. This is the way Social Security and Medicare work. People perceive that it’s fair.

So, here’s the challenge: how can you have a plan that eases student debts but appeals to a sense of fairness that many people share?

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16 Responses to What’s Fair is Fair?

  1. Alyssa says:

    Realistically there is no way to do this. There will always be someone that will have to pay for, or pay more if you attempt to ease the debts of students. I think we should find a way to lower the cost of college in general, rather than focusing on what happens after the students are in debt.

  2. M says:

    I think the student debt problem is too much of a problem to truly solve for past borrowers. Possibly cutting the interest rate for people who have already accrued debt, so that they can simply pay off their principal get out of the rat race which is student debt. I also propose that rather than making college free for all, we make it affordable for all. If Jessie’s family (who in this situation are covering the cost of her education) makes $400,000 a year compared to Sam’s family who only makes $40,000 a year, why should Jessie and Sam pay the same amount just to start in the same position. Poor people deserve the ability to pull themselves out of their situation just as much as the rich deserve to continue climbing. If college COA was capped at a certain percentage of a family’s income, it would make this playing field even for all, while still putting a price on the cost of education. If Jessie and Sam’s family’s both had to pay 10% of their annual income for their children to attend university ($40,000 and $4,000 respectively) it would have the same effect (affect?) to both families ( I would also argue that it would still hurt Sam’s family more) This would lower the costs of education for some and raise it for others, but in the end, University’s would still be making bank off of 18 year olds.

  3. D says:

    The issue of student debt has slowly crept its ugly head into my life in recent years. Unfortunately, I do not know effective ways to remedy the debt in order to please both conservatives and liberals. On one hand, I think that ultimately colleges should, work individually with those owing them a debt, adjusting monthly payments as much as they can while getting repaid. Maybe capping the amount of interest that can be accrued from student loans would also be effective. Some majors will not guarantee that the person pursuing them will be able to pay off the debt as effectively as someone in a different major. I also understand the argument that you take on the debt you take on, and you are responsible for it, not the rest of us. Maybe it’s cold, but it is the responsibility of the individual to be able to pay off their own debt. It’s a prickly issue, one which I am mostly biased toward. In an ideal world I could go to college debt-free anywhere but that isn’t the case here. It should somewhat be dependent on the person’s circumstances and reasonable ability to pay the debt.

  4. TL says:

    College tuition rises every year. Instead of easing student debts, colleges should lower the cost of attendance. For example, Harvard’s tuition costs almost $50,000. For the students who are unable to receive enough aid and scholarships to pay for college would be in tremendous debt. There is no reason why college tuitions to cost an arm and a leg. Therefore, I propose lowering tuition.

  5. Samantha says:

    These days student debts are through the roofs, and there should be a way to ease that. In actuality, however, I don’t think that there is any “fair” way to do this. Lowering tuition may help for a while, but the colleges that generally cost more are the more well rounded schools that may need the money to support the university. Capping a loan size so debt doesn’t ultimately take over would most likely slash out most people who are looking for a loan, and offering a lower price to certain people wouldn’t be fair to the people who will have to pay more because they didn’t earn scholarships or financial aid. In a perfect world, there would be a solution to this growing issue, but as for now I have absolutely no ideas on how to fairly correct the student debt epidemic.

  6. X says:

    There is no real solution to student debt. Colleges will always be extremely expensive, and in this society, getting an education correlates with success. There are many proposed solutions out there, but fairness is difficult to grant. Every student, after graduating, could be required to come up with a disciplined plan on how to repay their debt. However, this would be difficult to track, if five years later, one student has paid off the majority while the other has barely any. There is no way to tell whether the heavy-debted student worked hard and failed or just was lazy. Interest rates could be lower or simply the tuition of college. But people like to make money; that’s how this capitalistic economy works.

  7. random says:

    The cost of college is probably one of the main reasons people don’t get a college degree. Even after all the scholarships a student can get, attending college will still cost a good bit of money. Trying to find a way to ease student debt while making it fair for everyone is difficult. The system already in place for paying for college isn’t fair. Students who have a parent that is a doctor won’t get as much need-based financial aid. I understand the reason, but sometimes not every kid whose parent is a doctor fits the status quo. I think one solution could be for colleges to lower the tuition costs. Or maybe students just shouldn’t go to that college if they can’t afford it and know they’ll be paying off loans most of their life. I think big mistake students make is attending a college that’s really expensive then not being able to pay off the loans once they graduate. If a student gets into two schools, one being better than the other, but can’t afford to attend the better college, they shouldn’t go there. Of course everyone would want to attend the better school, but is it worth it if you come out having to pay a lot of money? Especially if you want to attend more school after your bachelors degree. I think that you can get a good education without attending the most prestigious school in the country.

  8. Bubba says:

    Most people do not like how the government system works in the tax and income side. Rich people have to pay more tax while poor people are able to leech off of them. Additionally, it is harder for rich people to get financial aid. If a student who came from a financially thriving household and a student who came from a financially unstable household both apply to the same college, the financially unstable student would probably have more assistance. However, if you make it where all households no matter what the financial status is, has to pay, then the poor will most likely remain poor, and the rich will still be rich. With student debts, I feel like there is no way to improve this situation. At the end, the student who is more successful in their studies and obtains a good career will eventually pay off their student debts. So a solution that could “treat” the problem is for students themselves to do good in college and get a well standing job.

  9. Linda A. says:

    I see the outcome of rising tuition costs as something similar to the housing bubble of 2008. It’s gonna burst. Maybe in the same way though. College is an investment in education. The value you gain from getting a college degree is human capital and credibility. However, if the price of investing gets too high, eventually more and more people will decide that investing just isn’t worth it. Making money in the digital age is as simple as opening an Etsy shop, advertising a brand on your Instagram, or becoming a YouTuber. This is an appealing opportunity to young people because college prices are crazy high. I think eventually the tuition bubble will burst on its own.

  10. Khytavia Fleming says:

    I feel that whether college should be tuition free or not will be something that democrats and republicans will be arguing about until the end of time. I don’t believe there is a way to lower tuition while allowing everyone to benefit as well. With Medicare that’s a different situation. Everyone is going to get old and retire, but not everyone is going to go to college and have kids that go to college as well. The average person would say, “What’s the point of me giving money to a person in college when I don’t have a kid that will be going to college. It’s like investing in something without getting any returns for myself.” Honestly, many people are selfish, but who can blame them. We’re just a bunch of people trying to make it in a cruel and big world.

  11. Sophie Tipton says:

    The government just rides everyone’s butt too hard. I have a lot I could say about that and as someone who is looking into colleges for next year, and having to get rid of many from my list because of cost, I can be easily outraged. I want a good education, but college has become so expensive, it is outrageous and next to that is how bad taxes are. College should be made cheaper and the debts from tuition and such should just stay in place and not be forgotten, but if college were cheaper they wouldn’t be that bad. Of course in the long run that I still care about this for, there will be no clear or given answer decided on because in this country all politics can only focus on their decision and what they want so democrats and republicans will never come to an agreement to fix this issue. Everyone will just suffer longer paying back the debt for their degree that can’t even get them a job anymore. Taxing others to cover everyone else though in my mind is never the answer.

  12. Erin says:

    There is no way to determine who is worthy of getting their tuition paid or not. The only solution I can think of is lowering the price of tuition for everyone. This might not be a possible solution, but it would open so many more options to people because of the lower price.

  13. Guillermo says:

    I think that the proposed fix should operate on graduates past a certain year, and give them a set amount of money to fix monetary deficits they may have accumulated. Then, college tuition prices should be dropped in order to ensure that future generations can pay for college without being in massive debt. This should not only please the people in debt but should also encourage oncoming generations to enroll in college.

  14. Kinsey says:

    People knew the financial risk when attempting a college education. Therefore, people should not be rewarded or coddled because they either cannot pay their debt or refuse to. The fictitious (yet realistic) comparison between the two graduates with the same amount of debt illustrates this perfectly. It is simply unfair to forgive debt for one group of people while ignoring the group of people who has made an effort to pay. The fair way to evaluate this issue is to force people to pay their debts.

  15. Sam Stokley says:

    Colleges should have to co-sign the student loan document. As of now, universities are receiving all of the reward with the tuition they receive from students; however, colleges share none of the risks. In their eyes, it does not matter if students pass or fail, and it does not matter to them if students can find a good job when you graduate. All colleges care about is taking your money. Colleges should have to take part of the risk with students because students are an investment.

  16. JoJo says:

    I believe that Warren’s plan is not at all how we should approach the problem. Attempting to alleviate the current amount of student debt that exists is only a temporary fix to a permanent solution. Even if we help people out now, colleges will still be expensive and students of our generation wont be affected at all and end up racking up more student loans. The measures we take to stop this issue should be preventative not curing. Instead of forgiving student loans, we should be working so that students don’t have to take up as much students loans as they already have. I believe that the best way to do this is merit and need based scholarships. We should give out scholarships to students who demonstrate any sort of need based off GPA and standardized test scores. This way, who were born into lower socioeconomic backgrounds will have higher chances of being able to afford college as long as they did well in high school. Student loans are a problem that is not going to leave us anytime soon and we should be making strides towards long term solutions. Even if we do attempt to cure the short term, blindly giving out money to anyone with a large amount of debt is terrible plan. People who have been irresponsible with their money and only racked up more debt would be magically cured of their debt and people who have been responsible and gotten her student debt to 49,000 would be absolutely slighted which is not fair at all. We should be preventative not curing.

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