MacDonald: Providing student debt relief isn’t the same for everyone

Alexandra MacDonald

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

We’ve all heard quite a few current (and former) Democratic presidential candidates boasting a policy of debt forgiveness and promising lowered or nonexistent tuition for college. The debate for this issue is expectedly nuanced and requires an educated mind to adequately examine the positives and negatives, though that doesn’t stop some people. 


There are some, however, that argue tuition shouldn’t be eliminated for future generations of undergraduates because they were required to pay when they attended. This argument is ill-formed and one-sided. It should not be used as a debate point on higher education or a way to negate potential presidential candidates because it represents a close-minded point of view and does not further the solution toward this problem. 

Student loan debt is the second leading cause of consumer debt behind mortgage debt. According to a 2018 Forbes article, it has reached over $1.56 trillion in 2020. On average, 44.7 million people with student loan debt are paying a loan of about $32,731 to cover their education. 

There’s some variance to that, with some attending private or public universities, but there’s a common denominator. There are many people who are not able to pay their full tuition bill when it’s given to them. It’s simply too expensive. 

Students today must pay more, whether it’s out of pocket or through unsubsidized or subsidized loans.”

As time passes, tuition rates fluctuate with the economy, as do housing rates and interest. The issue is when the inflated cost of tuition does not match the income for a potential college student. In 2018, a Forbes article noted that tuition rates rose over eight times faster than the median wages. 

The article explained that in 1989, the total cost for a four-year degree was $26,902 ($52,892 when adjusted for inflation) compared to 2016’s total of about $104,480. From 1989 to 2016, the cost of a four-year degree roughly doubled. 

Wages have increased, but barely. The average annual growth for wages between 1989 and 2016 was only 0.3%. Wages have not been able to compete with the exponential growth of inflated tuition rates. 

So when we come to the argument that it’s unfair to graduated students who have paid their tuition before rates became inflated, we can use this data to explain that it’s simply not a level argument. Students today must pay more, whether it’s out of pocket or through unsubsidized or subsidized loans. 

You can’t assume that people can go to school full-time and work full-time to pay it off anymore. It’s not a feasible argument because the inflation has made it impossible. That’s the unfortunate fact. 

Candidates in this year’s presidential race have offered many options to aid this ever-increasing problem, and we should be looking at them with the attitude of wanting to fix it. Sectioning ourselves in order to further the argument that “Your generation is lazy and won’t work to solve your problems” doesn’t help anyone. Look at the facts. We’re not the same.

Alexandra MacDonald can be reached at or on Twitter @alexandramacc.