Opinions: Better choices equals better results

Matthew Caballero, Opinions writer

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In an era when more students are graduating from our country’s university system than ever before, we are also seeing the average student’s debt rise to inconceivable levels. Just last year the average debt per student was $35,359, a number that the majority of college graduates will never pay off. This has become such a major problem that it is now getting a lot of attention on the presidential campaign trail.

Candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders tell us that the predatory nature of college loans is immoral and that their plans will solve all of these student’s problems. These two candidates have embraced policies that would either cancel all student debt loan debt or cancel all debt for students within a certain family income bracket. 

At face value these policies sound great, but they fail to acknowledge the economic effects and most important element of the problem, personal responsibility. Unfortunately, candidates like Senator Warren and Senator Sanders have joined the part of society that is becoming increasingly unwilling to accept the idea that our actions have consequences and that we have to bear the responsibility of those consequences. 

For example, someone that accumulates life altering student debt because they went out of state to pursue a degree that does not traditionally generate a large income post-graduation is not a victim. They, unfortunately, did not make a solid choice and will have to own up to the consequences. There is no form of government or invisible power looming over this individual that puts them in this situation other than themselves.  

An argument can be made that high schools, politicians, parents and universities as a whole have failed to prepare students for the consequences of incurring massive amounts of debt in the pursuit of a degree that will never yield the income they will need to pay back the loans.  When a student chooses a career path that is sure to earn them a modest income how can anyone agree that it is a good idea to incur hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans? 

Students should choose majors that inspire them, but they must keep in mind the return on investment the school they are selecting will provide.  They could save money by living at home and going to a junior college or stay in their home state to save money on tuition, but they aren’t making those choices with the future in mind.  

What we now have are politicians trying to secure their vote by promising to free them from the choices they have made.  Only that freedom will come at the expense of taxpayers that are already funding the scholarships at state schools that kids are choosing not to attend. 

The idea that our personal responsibility has more of an impact on our quality of life than any government policy is unpopular with many of the 2020 Democratic candidates.  According to candidates proposing the elimination of student debt, the answers to problems created by our decisions is that the government will fix it. They tell us how they can “crush student debt” and “provide free education” but should we really believe them? 

If the answer is no, I unfortunately think you’re right. People in positions of power will do anything to stay in power and are willing to say whatever is necessary to do so. If we can remember that the decisions we make today will affect us tomorrow, there is very little that any policy or person can do to stop us.  The chances of living an impoverished or disadvantaged life are slim if we take control of our decisions and we take as little debt as possible.

So, the next time you feel bad for yourself or those who choose a more expensive option for school, I hope you can refrain from looking outward for a solution. The majority of the time the answer lies within.  And if our fellow classmates and communities can start to believe in this philosophy again, I think we will start to see our futures change for the better. 

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