Opinion: Student loan debt relief is not about fairness

Mar 2, 2023, 2:00 PM | Updated: Mar 13, 2023, 2:01 pm
When it comes to most of life, and especially student loan debt, you can't think about what's fair....
Student debt relief advocates gather outside the Supreme Court on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, Feb. 27, 2023, ahead of arguments over President Joe Biden's student debt relief plan. (Patrick Semansky/Associated Press)
(Patrick Semansky/Associated Press)

This is an editorial piece. An editorial, like a news article, is based on fact but also shares opinions. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and are not associated with our newsroom.

From the moment President Biden first proposed student loan debt relief for the 43.5 million Americans who carry it, I began to hear complaints like this:

“I paid off my loan. Why should I be penalized for keeping my commitments?”

“This will only help wealthy people who are becoming doctors and stuff like that.”

“What about the guy who took out a loan to start a landscaping company? Nobody is handing him $20,000.” (That one is from Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts during oral arguments this week.)

Think bigger when it comes to student loan debt

What we have here is a failure to see the big picture. Let me tell you what I tell my elementary students when I substitute teach:

“Life isn’t fair. Don’t focus on what so-and-so got or did. Focus on what you have to be grateful for.”

I have saved for my children’s college education since the year after Aaron and I married. My parents paid for my college tuition. They instilled in me the belief that paying for college is part of a parent’s responsibility.

So, do I resent that other Americans will get some help with their loans when I saved for 20 years? Of course not. I want my fellow Americans to have the best life possible. I hope they are able to go to college if they want to. College should not be a privilege only for the wealthy.

If we allow people to discharge gambling debt in bankruptcy, why wouldn’t we allow students who go bankrupt under the weight of their loans to do likewise? Is that fair?

“That’s not fair!”

See how “fair” is just a stupid thing to focus on?

Have you ever tried to tell a highway patrol trooper it’s not fair he pulled you over? Didn’t he see all the other people going as fast as you? Faster than you!

The law just doesn’t apply equally. It can’t. An officer can’t be devoted to patrolling everything every one of us does. Sometimes you have to pay taxes for schools when you have no children attending them. Sometimes you get the freshest donuts, and sometimes not.

For the least of these

If we want to have a happy and healthy life, and in a happy and healthy country, the best way to do that is to truly want the best, not just for ourselves and our family, but for everyone. If we wish the best for everyone, we don’t begrudge them any help they may receive. And by the way, when we save for college or pay our college loans, we are blessed with the discipline and self-confidence that comes with fulfilling those responsibilities.

Before I leave this topic, let me say I understand these arguments might be moot in the Supreme Court case. Student debt relief may not be addressed on the merits there, but that doesn’t mean it can’t or shouldn’t be in Congress.

Amanda Dickson is the co-host of Utah’s Morning News and A Woman’s View.

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Opinion: Student loan debt relief is not about fairness