At this very moment, young people all over the world are emigrating from their home countries in search of a better life. Eastern Europeans, Asians, and Africans are particularly prone to emigrate. But the notion that young people in 21stcentury France should emigrate for economic reasons seems incredible. Indeed, according to Marquardt, he and two colleagues sparked a national uproar when they first proposed emigration for French young people in a newspaper article last year.
|State Highway Officials Moving Sharecroppers
Photo credit: Arthur Rothstein, 1939
How about young Americans? Should they consider leaving the United States to begin new lives in other countries? Yes, the time has come for the nation’s young people to seriously explore emigration--especially if they are burdened by crushing student-loan debt.
Americans have amassed more than $1 trillion in student-loan indebtedness. Currently, more than 37 million people are burdened by student loans, including several hundred thousand elderly people. Nearly 6 million borrowers are behind on their loans or in default, and that doesn’t include people who received economic hardship deferments and are not making their loan payments.
Thanks to congressional legislation and heartless bankruptcy courts, this debt is almost impossible to discharge in bankruptcy. And thanks to a Supreme Court decision, the government can garnish loan defaulters’ Social Security checks to collect unpaid student loans.
Thus, for Americans who are burdened with massive student loans and declining economic opportunities, emigration to another country is a reasonable option. Marquardt suggested that nations with growing economies such as China, Brazil, Turkey, India and Indonesia might be good places to emigrate.
Income Based Repayment Programs Turn Student-Loan Debtors Into Sharecroppers
President Obama knows that the federal student loan program is a huge problem for young Americans (and some not so young). In 2012, his administration introduced a modified IBR called a “Pay as You Earn” plan, which allows student-loan debtors to pay back their loans over a 20 year period based on a percentage of their income (U.S. Department of Education, 2012). At the end of the 20-year repayment period, any unpaid loan balance will be forgiven.
Indeed, IBRs are identical to the economic model of the sharecropper system that prevailed in the South during the early 20th century. Sharecroppers paid a percentage of their crop to wealthy landowners in return for permission to work someone else’s land (Woodward, 1951).
Eventually, the rural sharecropper system collapsed, and hundreds of thousands of Southern sharecroppers abandoned farming and immigrated to California during the 1930s. John Steinbeck memorialized this tragedy in his great novel, The Grapes of Wrath.
Higher Education Insiders Endorse the Sharecropper Option
Just as Europeans immigrated to the United States to escape plutocratic government, perpetual wars, military conscription, and lack of economic opportunities, American young people will soon be emigrating to other countries where they see brighter economic futures for themselves. And when that happens, America’s higher education community will bear a large part of the blame.
Burd, Stephen, et. al (2013, January29). Rebalancing Resources and Incentives in Federal Student Aid. New America Foundation. Accessible at: http://newamerica.net/publications/policy/rebalancing_resources_and_incentives_in_federal_student_aid#ACCOUNTABILITY,%20TRANSPARENCY,%20and%20REFORM
United States Department of Education (2012, December 21). Education Department Launches 'Pay As You Earn' Student Loan Repayment Plan. Accessible at: http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/education-department-launches-pay-you-earn-student-loan-repayment-plan
Woodward, C. Vann. Origins of the New South: 1877-1913. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State Univsersity Press, 1951.