Student Loan Forgiveness Makes My Grandson a Chump

Tarkio, Mo.

My grandson Aaron is 18 and preparing to enter college this fall. He has been a defensive end of some skill, a pitcher on his high-school baseball team, a trumpet player and a thespian. He was salutatorian of his high school class.

He’s also a chump.

His mom tells me that she and her husband have saved enough money to pay four years of out-of-state tuition at one of the top agricultural engineering schools in the nation, Iowa State University. According to Aaron, it’s like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology but for tractors.

Aaron has raised pigs since he was 9, showing them at the county fair and selling meat to friends and neighbors. He has spent a lot of time scooping hog manure and thawing out frozen porcine drinking fountains and developed entrepreneurial skills along the way. On snowy days, while his classmates slept in, he and his sister walked the streets of our town, armed with nothing but a smile and a shovel, going door to door offering to clear sidewalks for whatever homeowners would pay. More than a few were generous, but not all.

He has worked in our family’s greenhouse, operating everything from a forklift to a garden hose. It’s not an exaggeration to say he, his siblings and his cousins saved our business during the pandemic by replacing the employees we lost to Covid restrictions in early 2020. While the learning he missed when school was closed during the spring might prove costly as he tackles college calculus and physics, the lessons he learned from replacing a worker 50 years his senior will be invaluable.

This summer he’s working construction, helping build a house. He’s also picking up extra hours by helping out at a fireworks stand. We’re a border county, neighboring two states with stricter laws governing explosives, and fireworks stands are a big business here. I asked Aaron what he did there. He says he lifts heavy boxes and moves them from one place to another.

Heavy boxes, deep snow, hog manure. The path to financial responsibility and adulthood is filled with unpleasant, some may say demeaning, tasks. But these tasks are essential to developing responsible and productive citizens.

Or at least they used to be.


Elizabeth Warren

and Majority Leader

Chuck Schumer

support a plan to forgive as much as $50,000 in student loans per borrower, and according to the Washington Post, the Biden administration is preparing to announce a plan that would forgive $10,000 in loans, phasing out that gift at $150,000 in income for a taxpayer filing individually and $300,000 for a couple filing jointly. Meanwhile the interesting question—whether the president actually has the power to cancel, in the case of the Warren plan, up to $1 trillion in debt—is hardly mentioned.

Aaron and his parents have worked for years to pay for his college education, which seems both admirable and foolish. Clearly a better strategy would be to borrow as much as possible and let taxpayers foot the bill. The pressure on the next president to continue college-debt forgiveness will be immense, and such forgiveness could become permanent, like other government programs that began as temporary measures, such as income-tax withholding during World War II and many emergency farm-subsidy programs.

Opponents of the plan claim that the majority of the benefits would go to the middle class and worry that a $10,000 cash infusion for millions of borrowers would add to America’s inflation problem. Supporters back helping those burdened by college debt, pointing out that the decision to borrow the money was made when they were young and didn’t grasp the challenges of repaying thousands of dollars of college debt with entry-level jobs.

Forgiving student loans would no doubt anger those who have already paid theirs off, and it wouldn’t be popular with people who didn’t attend college at all. But erasing student debt wouldn’t change the financial lives of many adults.

For Aaron and students like him, the game would change. For some, work is its own reward. But if students expect their debt to be forgiven, it makes little sense to take an after-school job or enter the working world until after they earn their degree.

Aaron’s job at the fireworks stand will end on July 4, but his construction job will last until he enters college in the fall. He will continue to show up for work, lifting heavy boxes until July 4 and laying insulation in an attic during the hot Missouri summer. But if the administration goes ahead with its plans, a large part of the work Aaron has done will have been for naught. The funds from forgiven loans could have replaced the money he earned through hard work. At 18, he may not comprehend the value of work, but he’ll certainly get that he’s been played for a fool.

Mr. Hurst is a corn, soybean and greenhouse farmer.

Journal Editorial Report: It insults the millions who paid their loans back. Images: Getty Images for We The 45 Million Composite: Mark Kelly

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Show some Love^^