COLUMN: POINT-COUNTERPOINT: Should student debt be forgiven? | Columns

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In the United States, there is a long tradition of education recognizing that an educated public is more civic, makes better decisions, is more productive in the workplace, and in the long run is an economic engine.

Horace Mann was an early proponent of public education and, as reported by Virginia Commonwealth University, he believed that “the common school, a free, universal, non-sectarian, public institution, was the best means of ‘achieve the moral and social objective’. The reform movement he led aimed to create the virtuous Republican citizens needed to sustain America’s political institutions, the educated workforce needed to grow America’s economy, and the disciplined generation needed to prevent the social unrest so common. in the USA. cities in the decades leading up to the Civil War.

Now, we don’t really think about our public education being “free”, until some politicians come along and want to send that fiscal resource to private schools or homeschooled families. Most of us are products of “free” education and support public education. We recognize that it is not “free”, that we all pay taxes intended to support education.

In recognition of the value of education, our public institutions of higher learning have received significant fiscal support, so those who wish to pursue a college education can afford it. Some states have even gone so far as to make college free. Just look east to find one. Arkansas has a free program for STEM students. The requirements are as follows: “Students who have graduated from an Arkansas public school or who have received a recognized high school equivalency diploma and who have lived in the state for three consecutive years are eligible to apply for the program. Other than that, a recipient must complete 8 hours of community service per semester and must work full-time for three consecutive years in the state after graduation.” Nineteen other states have free programs, including – you may be surprised to find – Oklahoma with the “Oklahoma’s Promise” program. Eligibility for this program is as follows: “An applicant’s household income must be less than $55,000 per year and students must have completed a prescribed list of high school courses. Apart from that, during the course, if a student is suspended for more than one semester. for conduct reasons, they will permanently lose the scholarship.”

Add to that the long history of the Cherokee Nation supporting education – male and female seminaries dating back to 1851 – and you see a trend – real and palpable support for education. Behind this is another trend that has been very troubling. This one is the erosion of support for education at all levels with reduced support from our elected officials – who are supposed to represent you and me – resulting in ever-higher tuition fees that have burdened many students with a huge debt, because they borrowed to go to college.

There is an interesting and compelling article on the CNBC website from May 10, 2022, which makes four points on why some of the debt for college should be eliminated/forgiven.

I won’t go into all four, but the last one is in line with my earlier comments on Horace Mann and many others, “It really comes down to this idea that debt-free college is a public good, and just like we think about K-12 education as serving the public interest, the health of our economy, and the health of our democracy, we should also think about higher education.”

So yes, canceling student debt is a good idea. Let’s do this.

Robert Lee is a retired social worker with an interest in history and politics. He lives in Tahlequah.

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