“Highlights with Hegeman” for the Week of Sept. 5: Adding to the Debt

We live in a world where higher education has been more of a necessity than a luxury for nearly a century. In fact, when the Founders were putting together what became the U.S. Constitution, Thomas Jefferson often spoke of the need to properly fund higher education. In 1789, he wrote of the necessity for an educated population as the best way to preserve our representative republic, saying, “wherever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their own government.”

This is the same Jefferson who also spoke of the evils of debt in 1816, when he said, “to preserve their independence, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt.” The Founders also realized the war that brought this country freedom from British rule brought with it crushing debt, which lawmakers then tried to pay off as quickly as possible. Fast-forward to today, where the national debt is in the trillions of dollars, and growing every day. Now, the president has taken it upon himself to wipe away a percentage of student loans owed in this country.

The U.S. Department of Education will cancel debt to those who got Pell Grants, up to $20,000, and $10,000 for non-Pell debtors. Also, this is only for those earning less than $128,000 a year and will only continue through the remainder of this year. From there, the plan is to make changes to the entire student loan program, which could take any number of years. This was something promised during the most recent presidential campaign, done under the guise of helping because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

I realize college is expensive. It, like everything else, has cost more over the years. The Legislature has worked to keep costs in check here in Missouri. Part of our state budget includes money for higher education. Unfortunately, “cancelling” student loan debt is not what it seems. This debt is still owed, just not by the person who took out the loan. Now, these debts will have to be paid by someone else, and it will be the U.S. taxpayer who does so. We cannot keep adding to our national debt. In my opinion, sooner or later, we will reach a point where we cannot recover from all of this debt.

As always, please feel free to call, email or write with your ideas or concerns. My Capitol office number is (573) 751-1415, my email is dan.hegeman@senate.mo.gov and my mailing address is Room 332, State Capitol Building, Jefferson City, MO 65101.