Student Loan Forgiveness Is A Key Step In Promoting A Democratic Culture Of Mutual Aid

Tim Libretti, PhD
5 min readJun 1, 2022

Reports for the past month have indicated that President Joe Biden’s decision on whether to forgive student loan debt — and how much to forgive and for whom — is imminent.

In the midst of another mass shooting of school children, revealing again the deep illness and trauma of murderous violence the nation has failed to address, as well as the ongoing war in Ukraine, where arguably global democracy hangs in the balance, dependent on the successful resistance of the Ukrainian military, the issue of student loan forgiveness may not seem to convey the same urgency or assert itself as a policy priority at this moment.

And yet, if we understand fully the implications of forgiving student loan debt from a broader perspective of our national values and collective well-being, I think we can see that there is much at stake for promoting — indeed, protecting — our democracy in this decision.

To be fair, the average American reading CNN or following coverage generally about debates around student loan forgiveness would never guess that crucial social and democratic values — and the promotion of democracy itself — are at stake in this decision.

The issue is almost always talked about in virtually purely economic terms — how such loan forgiveness would provide relief to struggling Americans or serve to stimulate the economy overall.

To be sure, forgiving student debt would be a boon to the economy.

College debt levels have topped $1.7 trillion and, according to many economists, constitute a major drag on our economy. Think about it: college graduates saddled with debt are reluctant, and frankly unable, to purchase a home, start a family, or create a small business, constraining key sectors that drive economic growth and vitality under capitalism such as the housing market and entrepreneurial development.

According to a study from the Levy Institute, canceling student debt would spur economic activity to the tune of creating between 1.2 and 1.5 million new jobs in the first few years, creating tax-paying citizens who buy houses, start families, create businesses, and so forth.

Tim Libretti, PhD

Professor of Literature, Political Economy enthusiast, Dad, always thinking about the optimal world