This week, the Supreme Court heard two cases challenging President Joe Biden’s one-time student loan forgiveness plan. The plan, which will determine whether over 40 million people in the US can have up to $20,000 in debt canceled, has sparked conversations about whether it’s fair just days after it was announced.
One important conversation you won’t hear in the media, though, is how we ended up here in the first place. That is, how did we end up with so much student debt, and what can we do about it?
In today’s episode of Fiscally Savage, Dylan provides a brief history of student loans and explains how they work, how student loan debt became a $1.7 trillion crisis, and what we can do about it.
- [03:22] The two lawsuits challenging President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan
- [08:02] The history of student loans
- [14:54] How student debt became a $1.6 trillion crisis
- [21:44] How degree inflation and change in accountability move the goalpost from high school to college
- [26:25] Difficulties that are inherent in the current state of the student debt crisis
- [31:13] What we can and should do about the student debt crisis
[00:00:00] Intro: Forget the civilized path. It’s time to break the chains of debt and dependency, take control of our financial lives, and live free. This is the Fiscally Savage Podcast.
[00:00:15] Dylan Bain: Hello and welcome to Fiscally Savage. I’m your host, Dylan Bain. And today, Happy Friday, everybody. On these Friday shows, of course, I take something in the news and try to go one step deeper and today, I’m gonna be talking about student loans. So, unless you live under a rock in the United States, chances are good that you have heard a lot of the controversy around student loans, in particular, President Joe Biden’s plan that he announced on September 24th, 2022 to forgive up to $20,000 of student loan debt. And this, of course, has sparked no end to the controversy with just completely hyperbolic statements like, “Oh my God, this is completely unfair. Whoever heard of the United States government bailing out average ordinary citizens before? That type of stuff is just typically for the banks.” But I believe that this fits into this show because student loans are one of those things that is an aberration in the American economy and specifically, for a lot of workers, those of you who are hoping to be able to make something more out of your financial and economic firepower, typically end up going to college. And there’s lots of different ways in which one can fund that activity but student loans continue to be a very common tool that people are using. And this applies to both federally funded student loans and private student loans. They are tools that people are using in order to pursue their education. And when President Joe Biden announced this, people really started to ask some serious questions and the discussion has really, you know, kind of centered around two different things. The first one being whether or not the forgiveness of student loans is actually fair. And that’s always an argument that I kind of find to be interesting that people are making it because when we look at, particularly over the last three years with all of the different COVID initiatives, we are just up in arms over the idea that we’re gonna get forgive student loans. But we didn’t bat an eye at all the PPP loans that were so fraudulently used across the economy that we forgave without batting an eye, which of course brings us to some of the arguments that were heard in front of the Supreme Court of the United States on this last Tuesday, February 28th. Because immediately following President Biden’s announcement of this program, the lawsuits immediately started because, you know, hey. This is America. Of course, they did. And so, everybody kind of knew that this would end up in front of the Supreme Court and it didn’t disappoint. It immediately, you know, sparked lawsuits, sparked dismissals, sparked all sorts of things. And I have to tell you, as somebody who has been following the Supreme Court for about 20 years — because I am a political junkie because we all have to have our damaging addictions — that the speed at which this went to the Supreme Court kind of is just mind-blowing because we’re less than a year from the thing occurring to when the Supreme Court hears it and it typically takes a lot longer than that.
[00:03:22] Now, there were a ton of lawsuits but they really only two of them have made it to the Supreme Court and I’m gonna talk about them here just in case you are missing the context. So, in late 2022, Biden announced a student loan forgiveness. Lawsuits start February 23. We are now at the Supreme Court with two cases and these cases, as is so frequent when things go before the Supreme Court, are have become the amalgamation of many cases that have been merged together because they’re arguing similar things for similar reasons. The first one is Biden versus Nebraska and this is a coalition of GOP-led states that are essentially arguing that the administration’s decision to forgive up to $20,000 worth of student loans was the administration overstepping its authority as granted by law. The crux of this case is the idea that in forgiving these student loans, servicers would no longer be able to collect the interest and therefore, that’s going to have a negative impact on the state’s income. It’s really interesting to note that this argument has — like I said, this particular case is the amalgamation of a bunch of states whose cases have been pushed together but really there’s only one state for whom this is actually a legitimate argument because the state of Missouri has a state-run student loan servicing center called MOHELA and if the student loan forgiveness program is upheld by the Supreme Court, they will in fact lose money. It’s kind of a weak argument simply because the state of Missouri doesn’t rely exclusively on that for funding and then the amount that they would lose would not maybe be material to their bottom line and operational income. The other one is the Department of Education versus Brown. And in that particular case — again, an amalgamation of cases that have been pushed together, they’re arguing that the Biden administration violated the processes in which they’re supposed to go through when they make decisions like this. So, this is a procedural case basically saying, we’re not gonna argue whether the law is good or bad or whether this was good or bad or anything else. We’re just gonna say you broke the rules and so therefore, no matter how many people are harmed or how many people are helped, we don’t care. You’re not gonna do it ’cause it was against the rules. So, those are the two cases that were argued on Tuesday.
[00:05:42] And it’s worth noting that these cases hinge on two very distinct things and they hinge on it in a very distinct order. The first one is standing. In the United States legal system, in order to be able to take a case into federal court, you have to prove your standing. That is that you have been harmed in this case. This is why when Congress or state legislatures will pass laws that do things like make it really hard for you to vote, it’s so hard to make those cases go forward because it’s really difficult to prove that you were materially harmed by your lack of an ability to vote. And so, there are some people who go, oh, well, of course. Yeah, that makes sense. You weren’t harmed. And there’s other people who go, voting’s kind of like how we founded this country. That’s the whole idea of a representative of democracy is that you get to vote on people. So, if I can’t do it, aren’t you taking away my rights? And that’s a constitutional landmine I’m not gonna step on today. Maybe later but not today. And that brings us to the second point. If you can prove standing, then and only then are you allowed to argue what the law does and does not allow. So, in both cases, Biden v. Nebraska and Department of Education v. Brown, both of these plaintiffs have to prove their standing and then they have to prove that the law doesn’t allow Biden to do what Biden wanted to do.
[00:07:04] So, those are the facts on the ground. And I’m not gonna argue one way or the other whether or not I think this is a good idea or a bad idea or it’s moral hazard or it’s our duty as citizens. Honestly, that’s not an interesting conversation to me. And let’s be honest. There are people who are far more elegant than me who are having far better conversations for you to go listen to. One conversation you won’t hear though is how did we end up here in the first place. Because I think that’s actually informative when you look out at the world and you’re trying to take control of your financial life and you’re trying to build a better life for yourself and your loved ones. One thing that I do find to be instructive is why do we do what we do? How did we end up in an anti-human car-dependent society? Or in the case of student loans, how did we end up with so much student debt and what can we do to get out of it? That’s a more interesting conversation. So, today, I’m gonna go through and I’m gonna talk to you a little bit about the history of student loans and some of the difficulties they’re in.
[00:08:02] So let’s start by asking ourselves a question of how did we get here? So, student loans as a thing in the United States started in 1958 with the National Defense Education Act. Now, you might notice that there’s that seems weird to us here in 2023 with the idea of National Defense Education Act. This is at a time period where the government and society as a general whole viewed education as part and parcel of national defense. That is to say that if the population wasn’t educated, specifically in the aftermath of World War II, educated enough to compete in the atomic age where we had to talk about things like splitting the atom, then we were going to fall behind. And if the date of 1958 sounds familiar to you, well, then you get the gold star because in 1957, the USSR, which is the allegory for Russia, which is the great communist boogeyman of the Cold War, had released into space Sputnik. Sputnik was the first artificial satellite around Earth and all it did was blip its location but everybody lost their collective minds. If you know your history, you know that this is really the point in which we started to engage in what we call now the Space Race, where it was this entire race to put a man on the moon and return him back to Earth safely. JFK is famous for setting out that goal in his speeches. And so, at this particular point in time when we were looking up there going, my God, the Soviets or the Commies or the Reds, however you were terming them back at that time, we’re falling behind because you know, my God, our science is not good. And put yourself in the mindset of the people at that time because 10 years prior, we were just kind of getting used to the idea that atomic weaponry was a thing; that with one bomb, we could completely wipe out a city. For us sitting here in 2023, like we’ve lived with this our whole life. It’s basically the water we’re swimming now. But for the people at the time, there was a lot of change. I mean, aviation as a thing, and airports, even highway were not really something that were commonplace in society at that time. And I hate to ever like reference movies to try to illustrate historical points. But the movie Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is a great illustration of kind of the mindset at the time. There’s this great point in the movie in which they’re talking about nuclear annihilation, which at, you know, in the plot of the movie is now a certainty across the globe and they’re talking about how all the United States population, we’re gonna have to whittle it down to a select group of people with ratios of 10 women for every men and we’re gonna go live in mine shafts. And one of the generals, once he hears like, oh, 10 women to every man? Well, we gotta get this done. And he starts talking about we can’t afford to have a mine shaft gap. And the whole point of that scene is to illustrate the hysteria of this idea that we were falling behind the Russians. And so, we created the National Defense Education Act to be able to create a method by which students who couldn’t afford to go to universities could by taking out student loans. And it’s interesting to note that in the beginning, the ability to take out student loans was limited to certain categories, which included engineering, science, and education. Because the entire concept was we had to catch up to the Russians and start launching our own shit into space. Otherwise, it was an existential threat to the United States. That is how people thought of this at that time. And I guess one side note would be if you’ve ever looked at like a high school curriculum and wondered why is it that our entire high school curriculum — I’m talking specifically math here — builds up with the idea that calculus is the capstone of mathematical understanding when there are other candidates that might be better suited to everyday life like statistics. Now, side note. Statistics is not any better of a capstone than calculus but I digress. But why is it that our educational system is set up to point students towards calculus? Because calculus is the mathematics required in order to make rockets. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. Here in 2023, we are still using Cold War ideology to dictate the curriculum that our students and schools are learning because of course. We are welcome to America.
[00:12:38] But student loans then got expanded in 1965 with the Higher Education Act. The idea at that point — now, if you again if you know your history, this is about the same time that we’re starting to have things like the Great Society, which of course was the advent of Medicaid, Medicare under President LBJ, Lyndon Baines Johnson. The idea being is that we should be promoting our society as a prosperous place where the average American could go from rags to riches relatively easily. College was, for better or for worse, considered part of that story. Now, why did Lyndon Baines Johnson decide that he needed to have things like the Great Society and expanded educational opportunities? Well, he also expanded things like the suburbs and the highway systems and the reason he did that was because it was a great juxtaposition to the idea of a communist threat. That’s right. We expanded student loans and Medicaid and Medicare and the suburbs and the highways because of Cold War ideology because of course we did. Now, when we get to 1965, the government at this point is in the student loan business in two different ways. Number one was government-originated loans, of which those are the only ones that have made it to the present day but also the government would guarantee private loans. That is, if you defaulted, the US government would pay the bank back for the balance that you didn’t pay. It was also around this time that something called the Student Loan Marketing Association was created. You know it by the name of Sallie Mae. And as with so many other things during the Reagan years, Sallie Mae was spun off from its quasi-governmental status into a fully fledged publicly traded company. So, when you’re interacting with Sallie Mae now, you’re no longer interacting with how it was originally set up. And over this period of time, from 1965 to present, student loans have been increasing every single year. Very few years — 2008 was one of the very few years when student loans leveled off but then immediately took off and then, of course, we have our current enrollment over the COVID period of time. But other than those two very distinct parts, student loans have continued to rise as a share of the total debt load over the past 40 years.
[00:14:54] It’s worth noting that even though we currently stand at $1.5 trillion in student loan debt, it’s actually a very small part of total debt across the economy for the American consumer. So, one of the questions you might ask though is that if we went from zero to $1.5 trillion and there’s all this controversy around it, which I’ll get to in a second, what happened? Like why does student loan seems to be this increasingly large beast? We have not actually addressed any of the issues. In my life, I’ve watched it quadruple over time. So, there are basically five different things that you can point to and they’re all interconnected that have led to the idea that you a.) Have to go to college and b.) Student loans are totally worth it in order to go to college. The first one is during the 1980s, and I’ve talked about this on the show before, we started to see the erosion of factory jobs and the hollowing out of blue-collar power across the United States. So, it was during this time and then, of course, you know, we went through the 1980s but also then when we get to the 90s with the North American Free Trade Agreement, what we see is a lot of factories start closing and leaving. Also over that period of time, the Reagan administration really argued against a lot of antitrust legislation and cheap money policies, which enabled large conglomerates to start to form across the country. And, of course, what these large conglomerates would do is they would buy the factories and basically liquidate the assets and pay themselves some nice bonuses. That was if they continued production, they would just move it overseas. But also part and parcel to this, under the Reagan years in the 1980s, we saw the erosion of union power. Now, again, I’m not gonna take a side one’s way or the other on whether or not unions are good or unions are bad but I am going to point out that is an empirical fact that the higher percentage of your labor force is unionized, the higher the pay and benefits are and the more accessible economic success in the middle class is without a college education. That’s an empirical fact. You don’t have to like that fact but it is a fact.
[00:16:54] The second is the rise of technology. When we hit in the 1990s, computers were really coming onto the scene in a big, big way. And this had started back in the 1970s with mainframe computing but this really got a kicker in the 1990s. This was the period of time where we all had our AOL CD-ROMs and, you know, as coasters on our desks and if you don’t understand what I mean by that, then I just really made myself seem very old and that’s okay. But one of the things the rise of tech has done, and this is a very frequently overlooked commentary for people who comment on things like student loans, is that the activation knowledge required for economic participation in the United States is way higher because of technology’s presence. Like just stop and think about like some basic skills on how to be able to run a computer, operate emails, manage a calendar, operate Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Word, etc., etc., etc. Like that’s a baseline set of skills that you need to have if you’re going to compete in any real sense in the United States economy. And as computers have gotten deeper and deeper into the system, the more and more that activation knowledge has gone up. Colleges are seen as a great way in which you can get those skills after you have all the base skills from high school, which as I illustrated earlier, were set by Cold War ideology, which may or may not be useful in the current economy.
[00:18:17] The third reason for this is degree inflation. Now, the third and the fourth are actually very linked. Degree inflation and then my fourth one is a change in accountability. So, what do I mean by this? At some point, we started to switch the accountability in the educational system from the students and the parents to the teachers and themselves. Why did we do this? We did this in part because the number one contributing factor to a student’s success from all the variables within a school — that’s the important part so just remember that; all the variables within the school — is teacher quality. The problem with that statistic is that the variables within the school only make up about 10% to 12% of a student’s total outlook when it comes to their academic achievement. That is to say, it is entirely possible for every factor within a school to be absolutely at the top of its game and that student to be next to impossible to educate because the other 90% sucks. This was hammered home under the George W. Bush administration in the early 2000s with the passage of No Child Left Behind, which then tied teacher achievement to their students’ test scores. What this did in terms of degree inflation though is it made it impossible for students to fail.
[00:19:36] And if you’ve been listening to this show for any length of time, you know one of my origin stories, specifically my principal after eight years of me being a math teacher calling me into her office and demanding I commit fraud. What was she demanding that I do? Well, she was demanding that I take three of my students who had earned their Fs that I had bent over backwards for and change their grades so they could pass and graduate high school. Because my class, because I taught Algebra 2 in Arizona, which at the time was a mandated class in order to graduate. That is to say, you had to take it and you had to pass it and without that you couldn’t graduate. And so, what my principal was telling me was despite these students’ best efforts, we were going to just erase the grade that they had earned and we were gonna replace it so that we could maintain our graduation rate. Why? Because if we had let those grades stand, then we as a school would’ve been punished and the student would’ve been able to graduate anyway. What I ended up doing in that situation was I refused to do it. If she was gonna change the grade — and that is in fact what happened. She retroactively removed those three students from my class, assigned herself — she had no business teaching a math class. She had been an English teacher before she was a principal — but she assigned those students to herself and then retroactively gave them Bs in the class, thus enabling them to graduate from high school. What that type of thing has done is that it has made a high school education no longer a mark of achievement. It’s literally if you just muddle through and don’t drop out, you’re going to graduate. And we have passed law after law after law that has required this to be a thing because we’ve started to have this idea that in order to generate social mobility and economic viability, everybody has to be able to get the education and pass the education and if we don’t do it this way, then the teachers — those evil, evil teachers — are serving as gatekeepers to the economy. And all that’s done has been move the goalpost from high school to college.
[00:21:44] And so, do my saying that teachers don’t have any accountability or shouldn’t be held to account? No, absolutely not. I’m pointing out the effect of our grade intentions in this particular place. That degree inflation then meant that college became the thing because your high school diploma was basically now worthless. But now if you went to college, you at least hit something else and of course, if you’re as old as I am, which I’m only 40, so maybe you’re older, maybe you’re not, you probably heard your teachers say something along the lines of, well, in college that’s not gonna fly. Well, in college it does fly now and we all know it. Because what’s happened now is we’ve looked at it and said, well, high school is pointless but now college is the economic gateway. And so, the same forces that went for most people in high school have now come for the college professors. And then, of course, what has happened? Well, now you needed a master’s degree. I didn’t go get my MBA because I really wanted another master’s degree. I already had a master’s in education. I got my MBA because I was becoming an accountant and that really helped out. When you’re an MBA and a CPA, it really looks good on a resume. But let’s be honest. That MBA, there are so many of them out there. It’s really just a checkbox at this point. And so, when you get to that point, this becomes this ever-increasing arms race where you need higher and higher education. You’re putting off adulthood longer and longer and longer for not a whole lot of benefit economically to society and student loans have played an integral part of all of that, particularly when you start getting to the idea like just go to college and once you get your piece of paper, you’ll have a job waiting on the other side. Yeah, okay. For starters, that’s bullshit. But really, this has given rise to this idea that like the entire socialization exercise of college and the idea of, you know, the Ivy League of being able to learn in these — ivory towers. Like that’s all bullshit. You just need the piece of paper. That gave rise to for-profit online colleges, which of course have been shown to be nothing but fly-by-night informations that are gold mining students for what? That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. Student loans. And that last bit there is really where this whole story starts to come together of the things that have driven us down this path. And that is the downturn in higher education funding. Because remember in 1965, we passed a law with student loans as part of the core idea of being able to create greater social mobility.
[00:24:08] But starting in 1970, that’s just five years later, we started to defund higher education bit by bit and then it really picked up in the nineties. If you were in 1970 and you were enrolled in, say, the University of Wisconsin-Madison or another four-year institution at a state level, so a public four-year college, your state would’ve picked up about 75% of the cost of tuition and operations for you the student. As of 2021, it was at about 28%. And those are averages across the United States. If you happen to live in Kentucky, it’s a lot worse. You went from 89% down to 13% over that same period of time. And at the same time, the argument — and again specifically from conservatives but Democrats have their role in this too — was to tell the colleges, well, your job is to act like a business because for some reason, we always like to say this to governments, you should act like a business. No. Government should not act like a business because we’re all consumers who should not be excluded. But when you told the universities, hey, go act like a business. What you really told them was now you have to compete for students. What did the universities do? They turned to their donors. And this is why if you live in a university town, you see all of these buildings like the health center and this other center over here and it’s all beautiful and there’s new dorms going up and they’re got the latest cool stuff, whereas like, you know, when my uncles went to college, they all like there were like 10 of them in a broom closet and that was their dorms. Why is it that we’ve changed from that whole thing of like you’re here to live this Spartan existence eating ramen while going to school to the university is this full-bodied experience from start to finish? Well, it’s because we told them to act like businesses and they’re competing for studnets. That’s one of the things they’re doing to compete. And so, like whenever you say, hey, act like a business, one of the rules of thumbs that I have, this is the thing I’m telling to act like a business engaged in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Because if it’s any one of those things, I don’t think it should act like a business. It should be treated like a service. And if you kind of notice — life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness kind of line up really nicely with, you know, healthcare, the prison system, and higher education. But I digress.
[00:26:25] Let’s talk about some of the difficulties that are inherent with the current state of the student loan crisis. One of the features of the student loans is this idea of capitalizable interest. Now, that’s a mouthful but don’t worry. I’m here to be able to tell you what that means. If you were to, say, go to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, over your time there, your tuition payments for four years will total about $110,000. Now, that’s of course that’s the base number. Nobody really ever pays that but that’s what our sticker price is so that’s what we’re gonna. There’s two things to note. Number one: you’re not gonna pay that all upfront. You’re gonna pay that on a semester-by-semester basis and when you do that, you’re going to get a student loan for that semester. And so, in semester one, so over four years, there’ll be eight different payments are called disbursements for student loans and the first one’s gonna happen in the fall of the year if you are a traditional student. Now, when you take that student loan, if it’s an unsubsidized loan, what it means is you’re going to be paying, say, 5% interest on that but it’s in deferment. What does that mean? It means that they’re gonna charge you the 5% interest, but instead of you having to pay cash for it, they’re going to just tack it on the low balance. So, you might have taken $25,000, but in semester two you’re gonna have $25,000 plus one set of 5% interest. Then, in semester two, you see how the process goes. So, by the time you finish your four years, you’ve only borrowed $110,000, but once you capitalize all the interest, you now owe $146,000 because all that interest builds up over time. The other thing to note here is that if you actually switch those numbers and adjusted for inflation, that number, $110,000 to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is more than double what you would’ve paid in 1970. That goes back to my other point about decreasing funding over time. So, what that means with capitalizable interest, ladies and gentlemen, is that it’s entirely possible that you could have paid back more than you borrowed but you didn’t actually get anywhere because all you were doing was paying off the back interest. This is how people get trapped in this ever-increasing cycle.
[00:28:45] Second difficulty is bankruptcy. Some people have looked at their degrees and said, you know what? This didn’t work out for whatever reason. And they wanted to discharge it in bankruptcy, which you could do. You could do that until 1976. And why did we shut this down in 1976? Well, because ladies and gentlemen, it turns out the media has an agenda. What is that agenda? To make money. How do you make money? With fear and outrage. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. The media created an entirely false narrative around the idea that people were going to college and as soon as they were done with college declaring bankruptcy to wipe out all of their student debt. And they have found one very real case so it’s not like this didn’t happen. It’s just that it wasn’t that big of an issue for the response we had. They found a place where a lawyer had gone through law school, paid for everything, and he had gone through law school, passed the bar, and the first thing he did was file his own bankruptcy petition and discharged all of his student loan debt from law school. On some levels, it’s brilliant but it’s also sleazy as hell. The media picked this up and turned it into a fricking circus. And, you know, like looking at it, it’s like, well, okay, you know, that kind of looks like fraud to me from an accountant’s perspective and, I mean, the guy was a lawyer so you kind of have to believe that he wasn’t exactly ethical to begin with. And you could also look at doctors who are gonna do that and be like, no, well, the doctors are good. But then I look at the American medical industry and okay. Okay, maybe there’s a point here. For the bankruptcy though, it made it very difficult to discharge student loans in bankruptcy and I’m saying this as somebody who has some experience with that back in my early, early days. You can try to make the petition that’s an undue hardship but they’re next to nondischargeable. So, what you end up with is you have a debt instrument charging above-market interest rate and which is capitalizing all the time so you can never get out of it and then you can’t even discharge it in bankruptcy.
[00:30:39] Which then of course brings us to the third difficulty with student debt and that is life choices. Student debt is one of the number one reasons why people are delaying things like buying a home and starting a family. And from the starting a family standpoint, if you’ve ever looked at birth rates in the United States, they’re terrifyingly low. Why? Well, because by the time people get their financial feet on the ground after dealing with a lot of this stuff, a lot of people either can’t have kids or they’ve decided they don’t wanna put kids through that. That’s hard. And as a society, it’s not really healthy.
[00:31:13] And I wanna point out at this particular point in time because this is the what can we do about this section. We created this beast. We’re literally the only country in the world in which this is a problem. Other countries have figured this out and I was raised to believe that America is an exceptional place with exceptional people and there’s still a big part of me that truly believes that but I don’t believe this is the exceptionalism that we all really wanted America to have. We created this problem. And there’s lots of different ways out of it. Congress created the student loan. They could modify how we do this program and make it into a point where it’s not as big of an issue. They just need to have the will to do it. But for you as the person who’s unwilling to wait on Congress to pull its head out of its ass and do something and I can’t say I blame you, what can you do now? Well, you can always start off by knowing what you want. This goes back to having a vision. If you’re somebody who’s thinking about going into college, know what you want on the other end of that. If you’re somebody who’s in college, you should know what you want on the other end of that. And if you’re somebody with student loans right now, you really need to start thinking about what’s really most important to you and how you can deal with this. Once you have that, well, you make a plan. If you’re looking at it and saying, well, I’m gonna go to college, the decision to go to college or not to go to college has the exact same charge to it. I don’t really care which way you go. There’s plenty of opportunities in the trades. And if I had it all over to do again, if I was if I could go and talk to 18-year-old Dylan, I would tell him to become an electrician because that’s where my heart was. That’s what I really wanted to do and I was, like so many people told, just go to college, get a degree, and on the other side, there’ll be a permanent job for your life where you make tons of money and have a house with a picket fence and a whole herd of kids. Not how life turned out. But I needed to have a plan and I didn’t when I went to college. And I’ve had students in the past who have done both of this — gone to college without a plan, gone to college without a plan. Both of those went poorly. And I’ve had students who didn’t go to college with a plan and students who did go to college with a plan and both of those turned out really, really good.
[00:33:22] But with everything, ladies and gentlemen, you have to weigh the cost of benefits that are in front of you. There aren’t necessarily bad choices but there are trade-offs here. And maybe you’re sitting there and you’re just seething with anger at this entire thing about the idea that student loans might be forgiven. And one of the things I would say to that person is my brother in debt, never spend your time being angry at the people who are suffering. Don’t look at all the people in front of you who have student debt, even if they went and got some really useless fucking degree because they were duped by a system. I think our anger and rage, I think we can all agree, should be directed towards the people who created that system, the ones who really benefit from it, the ones who are willing to do things like bail out the banks and give billions of dollars of tax benefits to people with no benefit to the actual American citizen. Those people who have those student loans who are drowning in debt, of which I used to be one, well, they’re our brothers and sisters in this fight. And so, maybe it’s time to have compassion. Have another conversation. Look at some of the root causes. And maybe, just maybe, we can find a better way that will serve everyone.
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