While Billie and I agree to disagree on more issues than not, sometimes luck will find us on the same page. Take, for example, student loans. We were driving somewhere the other day and the radio was on. Billie likes soft rock and I like country, but that’s not important to the current story.
The DJ interrupted his non-stop soft rock, or maybe country, playback to spit the news. After updating us on the average cost of a gallon of gas, he reported that President Biden was considering an executive order canceling student loans up to $10,000. As someone who bounces back from being liberal on some issues and conservative on others, I believe it is wrong to forgive student loans, regardless of the amount, just plain wrong.
I grew up in a single parent family and with three kids to raise, it was all my mom could do to pay the rent and put food on the table. That said, when I graduated from high school, my mom contributed every penny she could find to help pay for my college education.
I was also able to work at the Diamond Pulp Mill during the summers, where I could do all the overtime I could manage. I did the dishes while I was studying at university. I also pumped gasoline. The fact is that with minimal financial support from my mother, I was able to enroll in university. If there were student loans at the time, I had no idea.
Do not mistake yourself. In many cases, student loans are the only way for people to get a college education. I fully realize that the cost of college education is exorbitant and getting more and more expensive every day. I support a system that encourages education and promotes a higher standard of living.
However, I have a problem with any eligibility program that becomes a handout rather than a helping hand. I was five years old when my father disappeared from my life. My mother suddenly found herself with three young children and without a job. The proudest person I have ever known, my mother reluctantly applied for and accepted welfare for a total of three months before finding a job as a housekeeper at 75 cents an hour. I would say that’s the type of circumstance that compensation programs were designed for.
As a retired criminal justice administrator, I sometimes find myself watching Judge Judy deliver her particular kind of justice on television. Many, if not most, of his litigants are behind in paying rent, car loans, or other financial disputes.
I am constantly amazed at the number of people who fund their lives through student loans or disability benefits. Sign up for 12 units. Major in Basket Weaving 101 and get a student loan big enough to buy a $60,000 ski boat. Sprain your ankle and perceive disability for the rest of your life. After all, you have earned it. This is the land of opportunity, isn’t it? Let me share with you some numbers reflecting the state of the student loan opportunity.
There is currently $1.75 trillion in student loan debt, including federal and private loans. The average due per borrower is $28,950. Of all student debt, 92% is federal student loans. Among students at public four-year institutions, 55% have student loan debt. Among students at four-year private, nonprofit institutions, 57% incurred student debt.
Federal student loans account for the vast majority of US student loan debt – approximately 92% of all outstanding student loan debt. Not surprisingly, young people hold the majority of student loan debt. Borrowers between the ages of 25 and 34 carry about $500 billion in federal student loans. Borrowers between the ages of 35 and 49 owe more than $620 billion, and even retirees 62 and older have student debt of $98 billion.
If every borrower repaid their loan, for my part, I would have few problems with the student loan program. Unfortunately, it is not the case. At the start of 2020, 2.7 million borrowers had their student loans on borrower terms (temporary suspension of repayment obligations) – then came the pandemic. Due to the pandemic, more than 25 million borrowers are currently seeing their loan repayment obligations suspended with little or no hope of repaying you and me.
In a system that was already broken. In a system where two administrations of opposing political parties have handed out money to anyone and everyone without any accountability. In a system where successful for-profit businesses also got a check. In a system where criminals behind bars received millions in unemployment checks. In a system where no one wants to work. In a system where gasoline costs $7 a gallon. In a system with an inflation rate of 9%. In a system where half of American swimming pools will remain closed this summer for lack of lifeguards. In a system where everyone is mad at everyone. We have met the enemy and it is us.
In the interest of fair play and factual reporting, I reluctantly write that Round-Up Director James Miller may not be as bad a golfer as I have reported. James and his much better partner Gary Ramos have beaten my friend John Trede and me in our last two games. Congratulations boys, but don’t get comfortable. It won’t happen again.
Speaking of exceptional athletes, how about this Rich DuVarney. Rich moved to town a few years ago and landed the job of superintendent of schools in Tehama County. Along with doing a great job leading the schools in the county, Rich had the good sense to join the Rotary Club of Red Bluff where he served one term as club president.
Even more impressively, at the approximate age of 61, Rich has just completed another championship season playing catcher for a Redding baseball team. Talk about your tools for ignorance. The old man is a stallion.
Bill Cornelius is a longtime Red Bluff resident, retired Chief Probation Officer, State Theater Champion, and outstanding athlete. He can be contacted at [email protected]