By USN Guest Columnist Hayley Harris / Feb 19, 2021

Hayley studied at Utah State University and now lives with her husband, Spencer, in Missoula, Montana. They provide for themselves and are the parents of two beautiful children.

I’m a millennial with student debt, here’s why I’m against student loan forgiveness.

For the past 6 years my family has sacrificed to minimize our student debt.

Here are examples of what we did to save money:

We chose an affordable university. We moved then worked for a year before attending so we would qualify for in-state tuition and have extra money for upcoming education costs. We didn’t take fancy vacations. We relied on our creativity and the outdoors for entertainment.

We didn’t eat out. The few times we went to restaurants were for birthdays, most times we paid with gift cards given to us.

We drove old cars (both over 15 years old,) rode the bus, and biked to school to save on paying for a campus parking pass.

We used the same old phones and laptops (both over ten years old) during our years at the university. We packed a lunch for school every single day.

No money was wasted on fast food, coffee, energy drinks, or alcohol. Both of us had side jobs, and on weekends we would take-on any extra work we could find (babysitting or construction) for extra income.

We had a strict food budget and weekly meal plan to keep costs low. I would put items back if my grocery haul was over-budget. We budgeted everything.

When we took out student loans we planned for every dollar we would need and gave the rest immediately back. Most of our clothes, toys, and all of our furniture (except mattresses) have been purchased second-hand.

After graduating we’ve continued to live frugally and refinanced our loan to lower our interest rate. We have been making double and triple payments on our loan whenever we can to save on interest.

Because of this frugality and sacrifice, we’ve been able to reduce our loan by half in less than two years after graduating. Before you assume that our loan was minimal, it wasn’t. The money we have painstakingly thrown at our loan could have been used for a down payment on a house, a brand new truck paid in cash, or a million other things that we “want”.

We have scrimped and saved in every possible way for the past 6 years, as we should have, so that we can be debt-free. Nobody forced us to attend graduate school or take out loans. We knew the cost and consequences of borrowing money, and as such, we made adjustments to our lifestyle to minimize our debt.

Forgiving student debt does not promote financial responsibility, it punishes it. We had classmates who took overseas spring break trips, bought new cars, purchased daily Starbucks and other unnecessary items with their student loans. Ironically, these people who made irresponsible financial decisions and participated in lavish spending would benefit the most from student loan forgiveness.

Forgiven debt does not simply vanish, it gets added to the national debt which places the burden on the backs of the taxpayer. If a trillion dollars of debt is forgiven, sacrifices made by people like us will be for naught. We will forever be paying extra taxes to repay the student debt we sacrificed so much to avoid.

If you are under the impression that forgiving student debt will help the poor, stimulate the economy, or provide relief from covid-related hardships, think again. Forgiving student debt benefits the rich, highly educated households in America. The top fifth of households hold $3 in student loans for every $1 held by the bottom fifth. They have the income to pay off their loans, especially if they dial back their spending habits.

What about the 210 million Americans without student debt? Are they less deserving of government assistance than everyone else? Consider the people who never attended college who would get no benefit from student loan forgiveness. They have a higher unemployment rate (8.1%) since the covid pandemic than those who attended college (4.2%).

Student loan forgiveness does the exact opposite of providing economic relief to those in need. Student loan forgiveness would be an unjust and ineffective way to deal with our nation’s financial problems. A bailout rewards people who failed to be financially responsible, enabling them to continue a cycle of frivolous spending, while undermining the efforts of us hard-working Americans who were willing to put-off what we wanted at the moment for a better future.

We deserve the freedom to choose how we save and spend our money. We shouldn’t be burdened by higher taxes that will result from the government paying for those who failed to sacrifice for their ‘free’ education.

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