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The Homefront: The folly of student debt forgiveness

By D. Louise Brown - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Sep 20, 2022

D. Louise Brown

When my husband and I married decades ago, he was still three years away from his college degree. So, he went to school (in addition to his full-time job) and I worked full-time to help put him through. We made a pact that we would never go into debt for his schooling. Since the money we earned between us was not enough to pay for school and living expenses, we also scrimped and cut back in a myriad of creative ways.

I raised a garden and bottled everything in it, plus any other produce I could find, either cheap or free. I sewed my own clothes using cloth from the remnants bin. I made jewelry to sell at the hospital gift shop. My husband took on a second job in addition to his first job plus full-time school. I added writing and editing jobs on the side to my full-time job, and babysat.

We lived so cheaply. Our accounting process was simple. In the desk drawer were envelopes for each category: rent, utilities, food, car, and so on. When an envelope emptied, it stayed that way until next pay day. I learned new ways to liven up beans and pasta and rice. Meat was a treat.

Our first child was born in the third year of our marriage. Our one-bedroom apartment became two bedrooms when we turned the tiny front room into her nursery. Welcome to our home; there’s the couch, just squeeze past the crib. It was what we had, so it was enough.

A couple of times, my husband paused for a term to take on extra work because we couldn’t make the tuition payment plus books, fees, etc. We both dreaded those times because it was a detour from the fierce determination we shared to finish.

In his final term, we didn’t have enough to pay his tuition. So close, yet so far! As we had many times before, we prayed for a miracle. It happened — though not the way we expected. Someone ran into our little car, crushing the back end of it. It still ran OK — if personal pride wasn’t an issue. The insurance check from the crash covered that last term’s tuition. We drove to his graduation ceremony in a bashed up car, euphoric that we finally made it.

We were grateful for so many things including employment that enabled us to make the money we needed, even though our earnings would be paltry in today’s economy. But schooling costs then were commensurate with earnings of that time. Aside from his college knowledge, we also learned we could go through just about anything if we stayed connected to our goal, and to each other. He devoted his time to his schoolwork while I devoted my time to supporting him. We earned that degree together, graduating from that academic setting with no student debt.

So, guess how excited I am now to be forced to pay for other people’s student debt?

I can already hear the opposition yelling out arguments. To them I would simply ask, did you take on extra jobs? Did you pause your schooling to earn enough to avoid incurring debt? Did you scrimp and slave and do without to squeeze every penny you had? Did you raise your own food, sew your own clothes, and live on beans and rice? Did you set pride and expectation aside? At the beginning of your education did you swear you would never go into debt? At the end did you drive a bashed up car to your commencement?

In a recent conversation, I listened as a young friend explained why it was OK for his thousands of dollars of student debt to be written off because the other political party recently forgave corporate debt. I asked when did two wrongs begin to make a right. He had no answer.

The sadder part, though, is what this has done to him. I listen to his diatribe and realize it is nothing more than verbal fluff in my ears because I now see him as “bought.” Of course he’s going to wax eloquent about the present administration’s decisions — this one and others. And of course, to me, anything he says is a paid political announcement. Paid by me.

A great loss is borne by any person deprived of his chance to go through the fire to meet a goal. A difficult challenge builds character, develops integrity and creates the kind of person we want to become.

My young friend has been as robbed as I have been.

D. Louise Brown lives in Layton. She writes a biweekly column for the Standard-Examiner.

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