Saturday, April 11, 2020

Joe Biden's student-loan forgiveness is seriously flawed, but it is a step in the right direction

Joe Biden announced his plan for student-loan forgiveness in a Medium commentary posted a few days ago.  He proposes to forgive all federal student loans for persons who earn up to $125,000 a year and who acquired their loans to attend a community college, a public college or university, or an HBCU (historically black college or university).

Biden's debt forgiveness plan is a step in the right direction, but it is seriously flawed.

First, Biden's plan does nothing for people who racked up student debt to attend for-profit colleges. We've known for a long time that the for-profit college industry has preyed on disadvantaged populations--people from low-income families, minorities, and first-generation college attendees.  On average, students leave their for-profit institutions with more debt than they would have acquired had they attended a public university.

So why not extended student-loan forgiveness to people who took out loans to attend a for-profit institution?

Second, student debtors who enrolled at private universities get no relief under Biden's plan unless they attended a private HBCU. This makes no sense to me at all.

Why should students who studied at Xavier University, a Catholic university in New Orleans, get debt forgiveness, while students who attended Loyola University, another New Orleans Catholic school, receive no relief at all? Are students who attended HBCUs more worthy of assistance than students who attended other colleges and universities? I don't think so.

Finally, Vice President Biden's proposal gives no relief to people who took out private student loans. Let's remember the fact that the so-called Bankruptcy Reform Act of 2005 explicitly made private student-loans virtually nondischargeable in bankruptcy.  Then-Senator Biden supported that bill and voted for it.

Why should a student who took out student loans from Wells Fargo or Sallie Mae be denied debt relief while students who took out federal loans get their student debt completely wiped out?

I support any legislation that brings assistance to overburdened student debtors--including plans proposed by Senator SandersSenator Elizabeth Warren, and former VP Biden.  So Biden's plan, imperfect as it is, has my support.

But wouldn't be simpler and fairer to amend the Bankruptcy Code and allow beaten down debtors to shed their student loans in bankruptcy like any other nonsecured consumer debt--regardless of where they went to college?

After all, the bankruptcy judges have the authority and the expertise to reject bankruptcy claims that are fraudulent or brought by people who have the financial means to pay back their lawful debts.

In my view, Biden's student loan relief plan is not well thought out. If implemented, it will ignite bitter resentment from people who are burdened by college loans taken out to attend private universities or for-profit colleges. And it will undoubtedly offend people who took out private student loans that are nondischargeable in bankruptcy because of a law Joe Biden helped enact back in 2005.

Joe Biden wants to forgive your student loans if you attended this Catholic university but not if you attended another Catholic school located in the same city.

3 comments:

  1. Why do you suppose that Biden came out with such a half-baked plan? I assume that he was afraid to deal with private student loans. If these are cancelled, the federal government really has to compensate the lenders. That costs real money.

    Whereas if federal loans are forgiven, that just means less money comes into the Treasury for the next decade or two. Biden figures this would eventually not get noticed.

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  2. Hi, Bob. Your interpretation of Biden's reasoning makes sense to me. I hadn't thought of that explanation. Hope you are staying safe and healthy during COVID-19 crisis. Thanks for writing.

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  3. Hi, Bob.

    I think that it was you who commented about the image that I posted with one of my essays that was taken from the cover of Legion magazine. I took that image down and replaced it with an image that I hope is innocuous. Thanks for commenting on that and thanks for reading my blog essays. Take care, Richard

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