This is Pastor Tim’s article which appeared in the Evening Leader on Tuesday, Sept 6
There is a lot of talk out there right now about student loan forgiveness. I have a Bachelor from Ohio Northern and I have a Masters from United Seminary. Just so you know my background with student loans, my mom worked at ONU and they have this wonderful program to allow kids of employees to go to school there for 95% off. Essentially, I delivered pizza for 4 years and paid my way through Ohio Northern, something that would have been impossible for most people.
In Seminary, I went to the financial aid office after I enrolled and asked for scholarships and grants I could apply for. I was given a list of possibilities, and then was immediately disqualified for all of them because of my race, gender, age, or my Dad not being a veteran. The office at that time did nothing to help me understand what else was out there, and I did not know. A few years after graduation and having made payments on the loans I took out to pay for Seminary, I found out that the United Methodist Church had grants available that I was not told about. They retroactively gave me a $10,000 grant that all but wiped out the debt I had. So, while I had paid on it for a few years, over half of it was taken out by this grant program.
I have these degrees and was able to attain them with what turned out to be very few loans. I haven’t made a student loan payment in the last 20 years. I can fully understand why people would like a break on paying student loans; I appreciate the break I got. But look where the breaks came from. The first break I got was because my mom was a faithful and dedicated employee at ONU, and the second break I got was because I was in pursuit of becoming a pastor in the United Methodist Church. The loan forgiveness that I received was dependent on my connection to larger organizations. ONU rewarded my mom for her years of service by providing and education for me, and the UMC was investing in me for years of service by providing further training for me.
But the loan forgiveness being proposed now is different. If my Mom had worked somewhere else other than ONU, the tuition forgiveness would not have been available. The offer was made based on specific criteria, mainly that my Mom worked there. Had I wanted a Master’s Degree in Education so that I could be a teacher, the UMC would not have given me a grant. All of this financial assistance was given to me in response to specific desired outcomes. The loan forgiveness proposed now is in response to nothing more than having debt. Which means no consideration is given to what the degree is in. Which means that the degree could be in a meaningful field like engineering or education. These people were trained in a field that has direct application to the public at large. We as a society need trained engineers and we need good teachers.
However, this student loan forgiveness could also apply to people who majored in dance theory, psychology, or music, degrees that have no formal application other than providing a college degree. My undergraduate degree is in Religion, a useless degree for anyone not heading to Seminary. When this education does not benefit society at large, but only helps the individual who received the degree, then what good is it to society to forgive that loan? We are investing in something that is only helpful to the recipient of the degree.
I understand what is attempting to be accomplished with this forgiveness. However, just the fact that this forgiveness of loans is needed proves that either the degree was too expensive, or that the degree has no tangible value. Every cent I have made in my life for the past few decades is directly attributed to the education I have received. I could not have the job I have without those degrees.
But if an earned degree does not lead to employment or opportunities that can pay for the loans it took to get the education, then might that be a sign that the degree is not worth the price? I know that college prices are sky rocketing but has anyone besides me realized that the amount that colleges are charging increases as the government makes more money available to pay for it? What good is a $1000 scholarship when the tuition cost also goes up $1000?
I am all for people getting education, but I feel like this student loan forgiveness is just fleecing tax payers. These loans don’t evaporate when they are forgiven, they are simply picked up by people who either paid off their student loans or never even went to college in the first place. It is another example of our dollars going to pay for something that we have no hope or even expectation of ever seeing a return on.
If you want to protest colleges so they can start charging tuition rates that are more fair, I am with you. But other than that, if you agreed to the loan, then you should pay the loan back yourself.