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Port: Student loan forgiveness ought to be coupled with reforms for higher education

There is a problem here to be solved, but what does student loan forgiveness do to solve it?

U.S. President Biden delivers remarks on student loan debt relief plan at the White House in Washington
President Joe Biden is flanked by U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona as he speaks about administration plans to forgive federal student loan debt during remarks Wednesday in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington.
Leah Millis / Reuters
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MINOT, N.D. — I am opposed to President Joe Biden's decision to forgive student loan debt.

This is me speaking against personal interest.

My household stands to benefit substantially from Biden's actions. My wife has some student loan debt that would seemingly qualify for forgiveness. Seeing it eliminated would be a burden off our backs.

But President Biden simply doesn't have the authority to forgive this debt. He's using, as justification for his actions, the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students (HEROES) Act of 2003 which was passed by Congress to "provide assistance with [military personnel's] transition into and out of active duty and active service" during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

President Biden is using what was supposed to be a temporary program of student loan forgiveness for military veterans to forgive a half-trillion dollars in student loan debt for just about everyone with student loan debt.

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I would think that our liberal friends, having lived through four years of the Trump administration, would these days be taking a dim view of presidents claiming such expansive executive powers, just as conservatives, having gone through eight years of the Obama administration, should have been more circumspect in their support of Trump's use of executive orders.

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"You could hear an audible groan in the chamber," one lawmaker told me shortly afterward. "Absolutely embarrassing."

Abuse of power is always OK with us as long as it's our side doing the abusing.

Alas, we never learn.

Also, and I know it's not fashionable to ask these days since neither party seems to care about fiscal discipline anymore, but where do we suppose this money is coming from in a country that's on track for another trillion-dollar budget deficit this year?

But beyond President Biden's misappropriation of authority, and the practical mathematics of our budget, there's the fact that this forgiveness does nothing to address why student loans have become such a problem.

And they are a problem.

American households, collectively, hold over $1.5 trillion in student loan debt . It is the second largest category of household debt, after mortgages.

There is a problem here to be solved, but what does student loan forgiveness do to solve it?

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Since 2000, the cost of higher education has skyrocketed, increasing roughly 180%, and growing much faster than other budget-busting line items in household budgets like medical care (130%), child care (115%), and housing costs (80%).

I'm not necessarily opposed to forgiving some student loans, because it's poor government policy that put students in this position. By subsidizing student loans, and turning then into an entitlement, we've driven run-away inflation in the higher education sector.

It's sickening to think of how this student loan debt has subsidized increasingly decadent campuses, with their massively unprofitable sports teams, bloated administrative bureaucracy, and exorbitant building campaigns. And it happened while, increasingly, getting a college degree became, for so many, the only viable path to a good career.

We have a lot to answer for when it comes to student loan policy.

So, sure, maybe some forgiveness should be part of that answer, but it's no answer at all if it doesn't include reforms for higher education.

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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