An informed decision during the four years of school might turn out to be subject to dramatic changes in the economy exactly at the time you graduate with your $30,000-$100,000 in debt. If you started in computer science in 1997, you would have graduated into two to three years of unemployment. For folks who started in 2005, there are a huge number who graduated who are unemployed — in almost any field you can name.
Informed decisions still cannot predict the stupidity of Wall Street or executives, or the latest trends in human resources management. Nor can it predict how many other people made the same informed decision you did–leading to an oversupply in the job market of talented and trained people.
Back in the day, I was able to graduate with no debt. And my starting salary was four times the cost of one year’s tuition at a highly ranked private university and 15 times the cost of one year’s tuition at a state university outside California (this was pre-Reagan). Today, my daughter is carrying $50,000 in debt for a masters degree in a science and I am carrying $7000 debt still from her undergraduate degree. And she cannot get a job in her field because research budgets are being cut and cut drastically by private, university, and government research institutions. And the current starting salary for a person in her field is $45,000, less than the tuition and expenses for one year in graduate school in a science.
If businesses want a highly trained workforce, they either pony up the money to see that there are a lot of qualified people or pay taxes so that the government can provide scholarships. Their kids not only get paid for by daddy but they also get legacy admissions at the best schools–even when they do not qualify.
Yes, we should forgive all of the student loan debt. It will free doctors to set up independent practices again. It will free households to spend and to save for housing again.
This hypocritical debt morality that lectures folks while allow the rich and powerful a huge pass misses entirely what the situation of most people is right now. It makes the folks that spout it feel oh so moral and provides an excuse for government and businesses to keep strip mining the educational investments of individuals.