Student Loan Forgiveness: History, Perspective, and Mindset

Back in April, I posted this on a private social media feed: “Y’all, I saw 1 post that sent me on a 2 hour research of articles and speeches. Did you know that colleges/universities in this country use to be tuition free (only charged a low registration fee) until the 1960s. Stanford didn’t charge any tuition for its first 30 years, and Harvard insisted on low to no cost college attendance. In the 1920s Rockefeller pushed for private universities to start charging tuition because more children of rich families were attending. Then when the push for desegregation picked up steam in the late 1960s, Reagan (as California Governor) proposed that state schools start charging tuition to “get rid of the undesirables” and leftist liberals at Berkeley who would rather protest than go to class (his own words), but in the guise of cutting back on government spending in order to reduce homeowner property taxes, and the UCs began to charge tuition and offer student loans for the first time. Then this spread nationally in the 1980s when he became president. I knew about Nixon’s “war on drugs” on “the black communities and anti-war hippies” in the 70s, and Reagan pushing that more to increase the prison population when he became President, but I just learned about his added war on education, and the end of tuition free public universities in this country. [In case you didn’t know, private elementary and high schools took off in the south when the public schools were integrated as well.] In just 2 generations, the US population went from Boomers have no college debt, to millennials (their kids) having $1.75 TRILLION in college debt.

The things not written in history books because we’re just now in our generation seeing the consequences of this.

Think about that the next time someone says having tuition free colleges is socialism.”

In light of today’s Biden Administration partial student loan forgiveness, and seeing many conversations in different groups, I’m making it public. I know some of you have voiced (privately or publicly) that it’s not fair that any student loans are forgiven because you paid yours off, or didn’t have any, or chose not to go to college. Whatever your reason, there is no one size fits all, and no matter where you stand, tuition reform is needed. For the past few years I’ve heard people say we need more people of color in science and law, but according to research, 70-83% of people are graduating in these fields with $300,000 in student debt (on average). Raising tuition was an intentional strategy to keep people of color out of higher education and certain professions (read post below). I’ve heard people say, “well they’re the ones that chose to be a (fill in profession).” Considering that we have a labor shortage right now in the medical field, coupled with a growing mental health crisis, overworked and understaffed law offices, tell me how fewer people entering these fields due to high tuition costs and debts actually helps or makes things better. All this to say, student loan forgiveness, debt cancellation, tuition reform, are all bigger than 1 person having the ability to pay their debt off. And if you’re a follower of Jesus, you don’t get to pick and choose whose debt gets forgiven or how. You also serve a God who you believe forgave your debt without any merit of your own, so why believe that same Jubilee can’t be extended in other tangible ways on this earth? Proclaiming freedom to the captives and setting the oppressed free were not only spiritual and metaphorical, but physical/literal also.

I know the sting of working really hard financially for something, and seeing another person get the financial assistance I didn’t get. Screams of “it’s not fair” ran through my mind, but I was soon convicted. Generally speaking, people tend to fall into 2 categories: growth or scarcity mindset. One group says “I didn’t get to have that, so you don’t get to have it too.” This is the scarcity mindset that sets oneself as the standard, is governed by jealousy and ingratitude, which can lead to hoarding, stinginess, and greed. Another group says “I didn’t get to have that, so I really hope you get to.” OR “That’s not my experience, and I didn’t need that, but I’m glad you get to have/experience that.” This is a growth mindset – one that desires to see all people thrive and a perspective that’s more outward looking with gratitude and generosity. Sometimes both of these are done or said in subtle ways, but the impact on those around you is felt in a significant way.

Anyways, I have more schooling to do, but I’m still grateful for the $10K relief! Hopefully things will be better for the next generation.

[*Picture: hope in the barren land]

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