President Joe Biden’s latest executive order, to forgive $10,000 in student loan debt for most former students — and $20,000 for some in lower income brackets — is front page news today in the U.S. But while it is good news for millions of young people struggling to pay off their debt as well as pay rent and buy food and other necessities, the measure is not nearly enough.
For a four-year bachelor’s degree, tuition cost alone averages $30,000, and can cost many times that at a private college or university. Many students have to take out additional loans to cover living expenses. The prohibitively high cost of higher education prevents many poor youth, especially Black and Brown youth, from obtaining a degree to begin with.
Often a four-year degree is not enough for students to get a good-paying job in their field of study, so they continue their studies in graduate school, borrowing more money and/or working as student-teacher to cover tuition and pay bills. Graduate students are frequently low paid and have had to organize unions to obtain a decent standard of living. At some of the wealthiest institutions, includIng Harvard and Columbia universities, graduate students have had to go on strike to win a just contract.
Now many college graduates are among the low wage workers fighting for a union at Starbucks.
Meanwhile finance capitalists fatten their bank accounts with billions in student loan interest payments. Biden’s order will not make a dent in their profit margin — nor will it hurt the bottom line of for-profit educational institutions.
Some progressive elected officials are calling for bigger breaks for young workers mired in debt. Social-democrats are calling for all student debt to be erased. The latter should be a minimum demand.
But merely focusing on crushing student loan obligations misses the fundamental point: All education, including higher education, should be free — period! Even Cuba, an island country with limited resources and stifled by the 60-year-old U.S blockade, provides free college education to all students.
For that too happen we need to fight to get rid of capitalism and institute socialism, where human needs like food, housing and education come before profits.