As many people in the student loan space know from firsthand experience, there is currently a pause on federal student loan payments, and many policymakers are discussing some kind of student loan bailout to provide relief to borrowers. A student loan bailout would have a significant impact on many lawyers and law students since students often need to borrow incredible sums to finance their legal educations. As discussed in prior articles on this website, and my own personal blog, I paid off all $197,282.90 of my college and law school student loans over the course of 46 months. In order to do so, I had to work several part-time jobs, implement difficult savings policies, and make other sacrifices. People often ask me, due to the fact that I worked so hard to pay off my student loans relatively quickly, how I would feel if there was a partial or total student loan bailout. To the surprise of many, I relate that I really would not mind such a bailout, and people who have paid off their student loans should not be upset if a student loan bailout is passed.
Let me first say at the onset that I am not a policy person, and I do not have enough information to know if a student loan bailout would be good public policy. There is some evidence to suggest that such a bailout might benefit high-income individuals who have the resources to attend college and graduate school, and will have higher-paying jobs with less student debt if a bailout is passed. Moreover, a student loan bailout would cost incredible sums, which may total in the hundreds of billions or over a trillion dollars, depending on the extent of the bailout. All of these considerations need to be carefully considered before a student loan bailout is passed, and since I like to stay in my lane, I am not going to say whether a student loan bailout is good or bad policy.
However, if a bailout is passed, I would not have a sense of regret over the sacrifice I made to pay off my student loans or bitterness at those who receive debt forgiveness. Paying off student loans was a great source of pride for me. I wanted to show that I had the will and resolve to accomplish this financial goal and finally reaching this achievement gave me a sense of satisfaction. A student loan bailout would not take this accomplishment away from me or anyone else who paid off their student debt. This intangible feeling cannot be understated, and this is not impacted by whether individuals do or do not need to contend with the same burdens as you when it comes to student debt.
On another level, student loans are not really part of my life anyone, so the subject of a student loan bailout does not have much practical impact on me and probably many others who paid off their debt. I paid off my student loans in 2016, so I have been debt free for almost six years. During that time, I have enjoyed the liberation of not needing to pay student loans each month, and student loans have not been a part of my life for a long time. Under these circumstances, it is difficult to be too upset by student loan policy and a potential student loan bailout since the subject of student debt is less raw in my mind.
This might be a little optimistic, but people who paid off student loans might also be exactly the type of people who understand the burdens of student loans and how others should hopefully not need to bear those burdens. Student debt was a very difficult challenge for me. I thought about my student loans every day, and it felt like each day was less enjoyable knowing that I had student loans that were constantly accruing interest. Moreover, I had to skip important family events, meetups with friends, and other important life occasions to work part-time jobs and save money to pay off my student loans as early as I did.
If future generations of student debt borrowers do not need to have similar burdens, this makes me happy and not bitter. The negative resentment of student debt borrowers taking the approach of “I had to deal with student loans and so should you” is really ugly, and does not show the compassion that these people should have from dealing with the burdens of student loans. People with student loans can connect with the suffering and financial issues caused by student loans, and they should be most empathetic toward the individuals who will benefit from a student loan bailout.
All told, even though I paid off my student loans at great cost, and a student loan bailout would have been a huge help for me, I am fine with current student debt borrowers receiving some kind of bailout. I know firsthand how difficult it can be to pay off student loans, and I would be okay with a student loan bailout if policymakers pass some kind of widespread student debt relief in the future.
Jordan Rothman is a partner of The Rothman Law Firm, a full-service New York and New Jersey law firm. He is also the founder of Student Debt Diaries, a website discussing how he paid off his student loans. You can reach Jordan through email at email@example.com.
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