Congress & DOE Can't Fix the Student Loan Program: They're Just Making It Up As They Go Along
Paolo Bacigalupi's apocalyptic novel The Water Knife is a tale about the struggle for water in the desert Southwest. Lucy, one of the novel's lead characters, is an investigative reporter trying to understand the major power players who use the law, violence, and vigilantes to control water for their various constituencies.
At some point, Lucy realizes that none of the big players has a long-range strategy, and she has a revelation:
They have no idea what they're doing. These are the people who are supposed to be pulling the strings, and they're making it up as they go along.
Suppose you are a college-loan borrower who hopes Congress will reform the federal student-loan program and maybe even forgive all $1.8 trillion in outstanding student debt. In that case, you need to have the same revelation that enlightened Lucy.
All the major players who participate in the massive grift called the federal student loan program are just making it up as they go along. There is no long-range plan. In fact, I don't think Congress or the Department of Education even know for sure how much money has been borrowed.
Reporters Warren Rojas and Camila DeChalus, writing for Business Insider, recently reported that 360 high-ranking congressional staffers owe money on student loans. Almost fifty of those staffers owe more than a quarter-million dollars. More than 250 of them owe up to $100,000. One congressional aide has been paying on student loans for 32 years.
Many of these staffers hope President Biden will cancel all this debt before the November elections, fearing the prospect of a Republican-controlled Congress. They may think the Biden administration has a plan.
But I don't think so. I don't think any of the leading players have a plan.
Four thousand colleges and universities depend on getting regular infusions of federal student-aid money. They're like drug addicts who live from moment to moment, waiting on their next fix.
The people who run the for-profit colleges are getting rich, and so are their shareholders. The status quo works just fine for them.
The Department of Education bureaucrats are paper shufflers. Their only goal is to keep shuffling all that paper until they're eligible to retire.
Rojas and DeChalus reported that four dozen student-debt-related bills have been introduced in this session of Congress. But so what? Reform bills have been filed every year for more than a decade, but none of those bills has made it out of committee.
The student-debt strikers hope to put enough pressure on Congress to get significant relief on their massive student loans. I hope they are successful. But I'm not sure the strikers have even gotten Congress's attention.
Let's face it. Congress, DOE, and the universities don't have a long-term plan for solving the student-loan crisis. They're just making it up as they go along.