. . . as we forgive our debtors.
I was 35 years old when I paid off all my student loans. The year I started college had been a rough one financially for my parents and they regretted that they could not help me with college. I borrowed money for both college and seminary. Tuition and fees were $2,074 annually at the University of North Carolina when I attended, and even with that debt and seminary debt, HH and I had been able to buy a home and have two children with another one on the way by the time we were 35.
Annual tuition and fees at UNC were $31,963 in 2017 according to this source. That’s a bit of a spike from my own college days. They are even higher now and according to this source, college costs double every nine years.
As we all know, education is the way out of poverty. A college education is not the only kind of education, but according to the United States Social Security Administration:
Men with bachelor’s degrees earn approximately $900,000 more in median lifetime earnings than high school graduates. Women with bachelor’s degrees earn $630,000 more.
Men with graduate degrees earn $1.5 million more in median lifetime earnings than high school graduates. Women with graduate degrees earn $1.1 million more.
Inspite of all the statistical facts, helping relieve student debt is a faith issue. Debt forgiveness is a Biblical value in both the Old and New Testaments.
Even so, many people of faith are criticizing Tuesday’s announcement from the White House that students can be forgiven up to $20,000 of their student debt.
- “I paid off all my debt, so why can’t everyone else?”
- “My parents worked hard to save up so that I wouldn’t need students loans, so why didn’t all families do that?”
- “I worked my way through college with multiple jobs, so why didn’t everybody do that?”
Congratulations if you or your family had the generational wealth or circumstances to pull off finishing college and/or graduate without any debt. This doesn’t mean that you are a better/more ambitious/smarter human being. It means that you are lucky/privileged/blessed.
Remember when billionaire Robert Smith announced at the 2019 Morehouse graduation that he was paying all the student debts of that graduating class? A friend of mine’s son – with no college debt – was in that class. I asked her how she felt about working hard to pay her child’s tuition and fees for four years while others were being relieved of their debts and she was thrilled and proud. She responded this way: It’s best for the country as a whole for her son’s classmates to enter the working world with no debt.
Remember when Bank of America subsidiaries (including Countrywide) received a $2,311,102,036 bailout? And CIT Group received $2,330,000,000? And First Bank Financial Corp of Ohio received $72,927,000? And JP Morgan got $3,243,888,392? And Nationstar Mortgage got $1,642,024,635? (I could go on including incentives and bailouts for everybody from Amazon to Walmart.)
Many Americans – especially in the corporate world – believe that these bailouts were good for the country as a whole. Is it not good for the country as a whole for young Americans (and the parents) to get a break so that they can buy homes and support their families and plan for retirement?
What’s best for the country as a whole? This is the big question.
What does it say about our nation if we gladly forgive the debts of financial instiuttions and other corporations, we we don’t forgive the debts of students – many of whom have been paying off that debt for years only to still owe tens of thousands of dollars? #CompoundInterest.
I consider it a sin to offer relief to corporations who earn billions each year while failing to offer relief to individual Americans who are still underwater because of relentless interest payments. Capitalism that only rewards the rich and burdens the poor destroys a healthy and just economy.
If you are a person of faith, I hope you will have mercy upon those who were told
- “A college education is essential,” and
- “We can help you pay for it” – spoken by predatory lenders.
Let each of us celebrate all those who are getting their lives back.