Biden’s plan to ‘cancel’ student debt passes the buck to all taxpayers

Rep. Bryan Steil (R-Wis.), opinion contributor

College graduates are being crushed by $1.6 trillion in student loans. Biden’s plan to “cancel” the debt won’t solve the problem. The latest proposal is to cover the first $10,000 owed by borrowers.  This would cost taxpayers $450 billion. Those on the left are marketing this as “cancelling” the debt, but despite their best attempts, Biden’s plan would simply pass the buck to all taxpayers. This includes taxpayers who never took out student loans, those who have already paid off their debt, and those who didn’t attend a four-year college or graduate school in the first place.

President Biden’s proposal represents a massive redistribution of wealth. The cost of this proposal will significantly increase our debt and transfers the burden to all workers and families. Thirteen percent of Americans currently have federal student debt. More than half of this debt is held by Americans with graduate degrees, meaning they attended school for six years or more. Many of these students have used their graduate degree to receive a high-paying job. This includes doctors, dentists, and lawyers.

The rationale behind this plan is fundamentally unfair. How many students made tough choices not to attend a costly out of state school, or decided to forgo college entirely, to avoid student debt? Many students worked to pay their way through school. Does the Biden administration really want to make every plumber, truck driver, and waiter pay for the student loans of doctors and lawyers? 

Many scholars believe this provision is unconstitutional. No president should be able to unilaterally redistribute billions of dollars with the stroke of a pen. This action will likely lead to lawsuits and confusion.

If this proposal became law, yet another industry would be heavily subsidized by Washington. When Washington aggressively subsidizes, prices go up. If you thought the federal government would pay off your car loan, would you have purchased a different car? Maybe car debt forgiveness will be the administration’s plan for Americans to afford an $80,000 Tesla, as Democratic policies drive up the price of gas.

As a former regent of the University of Wisconsin system, I was directly responsible for controlling the costs of higher education. On the Board, we never once raised undergraduate in-state tuition. We worked hard to keep college affordable. Our efforts had an impact. The cost of in state tuition in Wisconsin is roughly $11,000 a year, whereas Harvard is $54,000 a year. All universities should be working to lower costs. We need to hold colleges accountable for their tuition, rather than force every American to pay for it. Forgiving student debt doesn’t fix the problem of rising college tuition costs. Instead, it will lead to higher tuition and more debt, clobbering taxpayers.    

We need to address the cost of higher education. The gimmick proposed by the Biden administration will make the problem worse. The real answer is in holding college administrators accountable.

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