OPINION: Why I sacrificed to pay back my student loans
To graduate with minimal loans, I worked two jobs on campus. Additionally, I had an internship and waitressed during summer breaks.
Kate Hirzel is the Correspondent Director for Campus Reform. Kate manages the Campus Correspondents. Previously she worked as a field director for Presidential and Congressional campaigns. Kate graduated with majors in economics and management and political science and was president of College Republicans at Albion College.
President Joe Biden announced on Wednesday that he will be canceling up to $20,000 in Pell Grants and $10,000 for anyone with loans who have an income less than $125,000.
The news hit me with overwhelming frustration.
During record-high inflation, taxpayers who chose or did not go to college for financial reasons, or even worked multiple jobs to repay their loans, are now stuck with the responsibility for others’ irresponsible decisions.
Student loan cancelation is a slap in the face to people who have sacrificed for their families and out of a sense of personal responsibility when it comes to repaying debt.
I chose to attend Albion College in Michigan because it was the best financial option for me. I had applied to Clemson University, Elon University, Grand Valley State University, and Bentley College as well.
My dream school was Bentley College. I wanted to major in business and marketing, and Bentley focuses on business majors.
But at Albion, I was awarded a scholarship based on merit, need, and in-state tuition. Additionally, I was invited to participate in the Distinguished Scholars Program, which awarded an even larger scholarship.
I remember vividly doing the math and discovering that by comparison, Bently would cost $6,000 more a year to attend. I was torn between Bentley where I could focus exclusively on marketing, or Albion, where there was no marketing major. Ultimately, I decided it was selfish to choose a school that would impose more financial hardships on my family and myself. I could not justify paying an extra $24,000, so I chose Albion.
To graduate with minimal loans, I worked two jobs on campus as a Briton Path Mentor for students on academic probation and as a fundraiser for the college. Additionally, I had an internship and waitressed during summer breaks.
I graduated in May 2020 with $28,000 in loan debt, which I have since worked, saved, and sacrificed to pay off ahead of schedule.
My mother attended the University of Michigan and was pushed into an engineering major because she excelled in math and science. She dropped out and went to San Francisco State and became a teacher instead. Growing up, she pushed me to explore different careers, whether it was shadowing family members, internships, or doing career camps.
I am so unbelievably lucky my mother pushed me to develop a strong understanding of the commitment of going to college. I ended up double majoring in economics and political science, and understood what it meant to take $28,000 in loans.
It is important to teach young adults the responsibilities of taking loans.
The Brown Center on Education and Policy found when they asked students what student debt they have from their first year of college, only 52% of students knew. There is a disconnect between students realizing going to college and accepting debt is something they will have to pay back.
In 2009, student debt started to become a political issue, and in the 2012 presidential election, it was a debate topic. Students were for the first time that it was not their fault for having large loans.
Despite the promise of student debt cancellation post-2020, I started repaying my student debt.
Coming from a low-income household with a single mother, I was taught to repay my debts. I began paying $1,000 every month. The paused interest gave me the opportunity to pay all my high-interest loans off first. I remember the excitement I felt after paying off all my unsubsidized loans so fast.
I went around the office and called my family to celebrate my accomplishment. In response, everyone asked me why I was repaying my loans. They said since Biden might cancel $10,000-$50,000 in student debt, I would lose money by paying my loans.
Because of Biden’s policies, there is more reason to not pay back loans.
Recent graduates have had no incentive to begin repaying loans if they had the suspicion they would be forgiven, and there were no required monthly payments and interest. The amounts ranged from $10,000 to erasing student debt completely.
In February, a group of Democratic congressmen wrote a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Education demanding answers about student loan forgiveness.
So, with $11,000 of loans left, I stopped. I haven’t made a loan payment since March 31st. I have the money to pay off my student loans right now.
I am sure many others have the money to pay off their student loans as well, but we are choosing not to.
I am an example of a college student that did not pay back my loans because it was smarter not to.
But it’s not free. Nothing is. Instead, the taxpayers are going to be paying the bill for recent graduates like me. 56% of loans are held by graduate students, who will become the highest-paid members of our society.
My step-father never went to college. He served in the army and then became a railroad engineer. He and so many other men and women like him will be paying the bill. Biden passed a bill that will push the responsibility of repaying the debt on every truck driver, business owner, and plumber.
Campus Reform interviewed college students about student loan forgiveness. Students were overwhelmingly positive about forgiving student debt, but when they were asked the same question about credit card loans, students changed their tune.
“Not just straight up forgiving, no. Because, you don't learn anything,” one student said.
Students genuinely do not see student loans as their responsibility and decision, unlike credit card debt. This is a direct result of politicians telling students it’s not the students’ fault.
Forgiving student debt removes the responsibility of repaying the loan from the student. There is no reason for students to make smart financial decisions when choosing higher education. The Biden Administration is encouraging students to commit to loans they will never be able to repay.
Students are already demanding for more student loans be forgiven. Despite the Biden Administration forgiving over $300 billion in student loans, some people still want more.
Canceling student debt is a dangerous precedent to set in society because students are becoming less motivated to make smart financial decisions and pay back their debts.
America is built upon the belief that if you work hard you can achieve success. Instead, Biden’s policies incentivize students to rely on others to work hard for them.
Taxpayers will feel the effects of Biden’s debt forgiveness for years to come.
Editorials and op-eds reflect the opinion of the authors and not necessarily that of Campus Reform or the Leadership Institute.