The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

College Education Should Be Free!

Aug 29, 2022

President Biden announced that he is fulfilling a campaign promise to help eliminate student debt when he announced detailed plans to cancel up to $10,000 in federal student loan debt for borrowers earning less than $125,000 a year. And some borrowers, those with the greatest financial need who had Pell Grants in college, could see up to $20,000 in federal student loans forgiven. Biden also extended a pandemic-related pause on student loan collections and interest through the end of the year, since the latest extension was scheduled to end August 31.

More than 43 million people have federal student loan debt in the U.S. On the face of it, for these, $10,000 or $20,000 may be better than nothing. But the average borrower has about $37,000 in public student loans, and this initiative does not cover private loans taken out by people when they were students, often going into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

This plan is, in fact, a band-aid on a system that puts tens of millions of people into debt—often for the rest of their working lives and even into their so-called golden years, when they can find their Social Security checks garnisheed for loan payments. It’s a band-aid millions of people who find themselves spending a chunk of their monthly income on student loan debt repayment—often on only the interest on this exorbitant debt. It’s a band-aid for those hundreds of thousands of young, and not so young, who have graduated from college and find themselves forced to live in the room they grew up in or in their parents’ basements, because they can’t afford to pay rent, let alone buy a house, given their student debt load.

Since Biden’s announcement, many people have come forward with their stories about still paying off their student loans after 2 or 3 decades, now with their own children facing the same obstacles to obtaining an education—but worse. Public college tuition and fees have nearly quadrupled in the past 40 years, even after adjusting for inflation. According to BRIDGE, in Michigan, a fifth grade teacher said, "I’m afraid that it’s going to be a one and done, like ‘there, we helped you out, you should be happy, but this is all we’re going to do about it’" instead of fixing the broken system.

Yes, a broken system, for the vast majority of the population, where the right to an education, or to health care, or to housing, or to culture, you name it, is based on a “How much can you afford” model.

The student debt problem will not be eliminated until we get rid of this broken system that can forgive 100% of the billions in PPP loans to big businesses; that can find billions for the war machine and corporate and bank bailouts, while its spokesmen complain and lie that this student debt relief will break the bank.

We need to break the bank. There is plenty of wealth in this society, the wealth the working class produces, so that universities and colleges could be free, all education could be free. It could and should be a human right.