The Homefront: The Madness of Student Debt Cancellation | News, Sports, Jobs

When my husband and I got married decades ago, he was still three years away from graduating from college. So he went to school (in addition to his full-time job) and I worked full-time to help him get by. We made a pact that we would never go into debt for his schooling. Since the money we earned between us was not enough to pay for tuition and living expenses, we also saved and reduced in a myriad of creative ways.

I raised a garden and bottled everything in it, along with every other product I could find, whether cheap or free. I sewed my own clothes with fabric from the trash. I made jewelry to sell at the hospital gift shop. My husband took on a second job in addition to his first job and full-time school. I added writing and editing work alongside my full-time job and babysitting.

We lived so cheaply. Our accounting process was simple. In the desk drawer were envelopes for each category: rent, utilities, food, car, etc. When an envelope emptied, it stayed that way until the next payday. I learned new ways to flavor beans, pasta and rice. The meat was a treat.

Our first child was born in the third year of our marriage. Our one bedroom apartment became two bedrooms when we transformed the small front room into a child’s bedroom. Welcome to our house; there’s the couch, just walk past the cradle. That was what we had, so that was enough.

A few times my husband took a break for a term to take on extra work because we couldn’t afford tuition plus books, fees, etc. We both dreaded those moments because it was a detour from the fierce determination we shared to finish.

During his last term, we didn’t have enough to pay his tuition. So close and yet so far! As we had done many times before, we prayed for a miracle. It happened – but not as we expected. Someone rammed our little car, crushing the back. It still worked well – if personal pride wasn’t an issue. The insurance check from the accident covered tuition for the last term. We drove to his graduation ceremony in a battered car, euphoric that we had finally made it.

We were grateful for so many things, including employment, which allowed us to earn the money we needed, even though our income would be paltry in today’s economy. But tuition fees were then proportional to income at the time. In addition to her academic knowledge, we also learned that we could get through just about anything if we stayed connected to our purpose and to each other. He devoted his time to his school work while I devoted my time to supporting him. We earned this degree together, graduating from this academic environment with no student debt.

So guess how excited I am now to have to pay other people’s student debt?

I can already hear the opposition shouting arguments. To them, I would simply ask them, have you taken any additional jobs? Did you interrupt your studies to earn enough money to avoid going into debt? Have you skimped and slaved and gone without to squeeze every penny you had? Did you grow your own food, sew your own clothes, and live on beans and rice? Have you put aside pride and expectations? At the start of your studies, did you swear never to go into debt? In the end, did you drive a smashed car until your debut?

In a recent conversation, I listened to a young friend explain why it was okay for his thousands of dollars in student debt to be forgiven because the other political party had recently forgiven the company debt. I asked when did two wrongs start making one right. He had no answer.

The saddest part, however, is what it did to him. I listen to his rant and realize it’s nothing more than verbal fluff in my ears because I now see it as “bought”. Of course, he is going to be eloquent about the decisions of the current administration – this one and others. And of course, to me, everything he says is paid political advertising. Paid by me.

A great loss is borne by anyone deprived of the chance to go through fire to achieve a goal. A difficult challenge builds character, develops integrity, and creates the kind of person we want to become.

My young friend was as robbed as I was.

D. Louise Brown lives in Layton. She writes a bi-weekly column for the Standard-Examiner.


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John A. Bogar