Uber Driver Fails to Understand Student Loan Forgiveness

Upon entering the car, my Uber driver had talk radio on discussing President Biden’s extensive plan to absolve billions in student debt.

“Exciting news, right?” I expressed. “Finally, relief for the struggling borrowers.”

Turning to me via the rearview mirror, she inquired, “You’re in favor of this, aren’t you?”

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“Certainly,” I replied. “It’s not just me! Representative Bobby Scott asserts that it will ‘be transformative for millions of student loan borrowers.’ AFT president Randi Weingarten states the president is intent on ‘removing the burden of student debt’ to ‘enhance people’s lives.'”

However, my driver seemed unenthusiastic. “Didn’t they willingly take these loans?” she questioned.

“Well, yes, but—” I started.

“To attend college or obtain those prestigious advanced degrees in order to earn more than us blue-collar workers, right? Meanwhile, my college-going friends utilize their loans for rent, internet, smartphones, meals . . . expenses that the rest of us pay for ourselves,” she pointed out.

“Yes, but you may not fully grasp—” I responded.

“Have you ever purchased a car or a home?” she asked.

“Yes,” I replied. “Why?”

“I paid for this car,” she stated. “I paid for community college. These individuals borrowed money for college. They committed to repaying it. Why should I foot their bills as well?”

“I don’t think you comprehend,” I remarked. “For instance, ParentsTogether highlighted Crystal Payne, burdened with $80,000 in student loans. Her payments consume ‘a significant portion of her paycheck.’ She finds it ‘upsetting’ to have to prioritize loan payments over ‘activities like play therapy or other enriching experiences for her son.’ Do you see?”

“She borrowed a substantial sum for college and now doesn’t want to repay it. So what? I’m not keen on paying my car loan either,” she replied.

“Do you think she deserves some relief?” I inquired. “She didn’t receive the expected benefits from college.”

“Then her college should repay the loans,” she suggested. “They’re the ones who received the $80,000.”

“That’s not the process,” I clarified. “MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow has highlighted that this is primarily about Republicans wishing for ‘banks to profit from individuals who borrowed for college.'”

“That’s not accurate,” she countered. “The radio hosts were saying that Democrats eliminated banks from student lending during Obama’s tenure. It’s not about banks; it’s about whether taxpayers should cover someone else’s loans.”

“That’s a simplistic viewpoint,” I countered. “The New York Times clarifies that the president’s proposal ‘could help mobilize support among young voters.’ Those indebted individuals are reluctant to repay. This move could assist Biden in defeating Trump, an authoritarian figure who disregards laws and employs government to benefit his associates.”

“But Biden is sidestepping regulations and doling out half a trillion dollars to secure votes. Isn’t that the kind of behavior they accused Trump of? Why is it acceptable when Biden does it? I recall hearing both Biden and Nancy Pelosi admitting the president lacked the authority to do this—up until he did it,” she countered.

“You’re missing the point,” I argued. “Many individuals drop out or overpay for graduate degrees. They feel cheated. And fewer individuals may pursue higher education if they bear the full cost.”

“So?”

“We desire individuals to pursue higher education,” I explained.

“Who does?” she questioned.

“We do,” I affirmed. “College fosters responsible citizenship and personal growth.”

“Really? I’ve encountered a variety of college graduates, and I don’t believe they are morally superior. They just display more arrogance. According to my friends, college mostly involves sleeping in, taking easy courses, and constantly staring at screens. How does that enhance one’s character?” she retorted.

“I don’t think you comprehend the pressure facing these borrowers,” I expressed.

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Perplexed, she remarked, “Didn’t the radio mention that these borrowers enjoyed a pandemic ‘reprieve’? They were exempt from payments for three years, right?”

“Indeed,” I confirmed. “And—” I began.

“And it was interest-free. Credit was granted as if they had made payments?” she probed.

“Yes,” I replied. “Yet—” I initiated.

“So, they already received over $200 billion in free aid. Meanwhile, the rest of us continued making our car and mortgage payments,” she observed.

“Hence, it seems unjust to demand repayment now,” I argued. “They’ve grown accustomed to that extra cash. They’ve used it for clothing, trips, and ‘play therapy.’ It’s cruel to expect them to suddenly start repaying those loans.”

“Since I didn’t borrow $80,000 for college, maybe I lack the intelligence to grasp this,” she suggested, “but this sounds absurd. We already gave them a significant break, and now, instead of gratitude, they insist that’s why they deserve more. That’s quite irresponsible.”

“I believe you’re lacking empathy,” I noted.

“You know, I was once in a toxic relationship with a freeloader,” she disclosed. “The pattern was similar. I thought I was being compassionate, but my therapist helped me realize I was actually enabling.”

Our eyes met through the rearview mirror.

“Let me pose this question,” she interjected. “If individuals don’t foresee repaying their college loans, won’t they likely borrow more? And won’t colleges raise prices even higher? If the government covered your Uber fare, you wouldn’t concern yourself with the cost.”

I was troubled by her lack of compassion. I advised her to consider a more empathetic approach.

“Perhaps,” she acknowledged. “But it appears Biden is attempting to deceive me. That’s not my definition of compassion.”

Frederick Hess serves as the executive editor of Education Next and is the creator of the blog “Old School with Rick Hess.”

The article titled “My Uber Driver Just Doesn’t Get Student Loan Forgiveness” first appeared on Education Next.

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