Should Student Loans Be Forgiven?


One-third of all American college students now go into debt to get through college, “and the average student loan debt reached a record high of $40,904 [per person] in 2021” according to Investopedia. In total, American borrowers owe about $1.75 trillion in student loan debt. This debt total, coupled with the rising costs of college and an array of other issues have resulted in a robust debate regarding what should be done about American student loan debt.

In the wake of the Great Recession of the late 2000s and amid concerns of credit availability, “policymakers enacted legislation to originate all new loans through the federal government using federal funds” (Bipartisan Policy Center). As a result, any such contemporary efforts to forgive student debt place the federal government and taxpayers at the center of the discussion. While programs such as income-driven repayment (IDR) plans and public service loan forgiveness (PSLF) have already often reduced the debt burden on borrowers and minimized defaults, repayment rates have continued to fall and student debt still grows.

So what should be done about the student debt issue? Various proposals by legislators and the Biden Administration have offered $10,000 to $50,000 or more in forgiveness for all borrowers. However, some opponents have argued that not only would these proposals burden the American public, but that blanket student loan forgiveness would disproportionately benefit certain types of borrowers. Other opponents to forgiveness have also suggested that forgiveness is unfair to both past and future borrowers and that students should be held responsible for the contracts they signed. Without a clear solution in sight, the debate continues.

This deliberation includes eleven video clips, two articles, and several educational activities to guide students through a review of the causes of growing student loan debt and the contemporary arguments for and against student loan forgiveness. After a careful review of multiple perspectives, students will determine what should be done about student loans and be presented with several optional extensions to take an active role in the debate.

Objectives and Outcomes

  • Students will be able to describe key vocabulary terms and concepts associated with the debate surrounding the forgiveness of student loans.

  • Students will be able to identify and explain aspects of the student loan forgiveness debate including those of debt, fairness, equity, and opportunity. 

  • Students will be able to evaluate arguments relating to the forgiveness of student loans and formulate an opinion on this question.