Do People Who Don't Have Student Debt Care About Student Loan Forgiveness?

As President-Elect Joe Biden continues to face pressure to cancel student loan debt when he takes office in January, people on Twitter have weighed in on an important discussion: do people who don't have debt or have paid off their student loans care if debt is cancelled for everyone?

Some people are worried about possible backlash should Biden cancel college debt in his first 100 days. "Those with college debt will be thrilled, of course. But lots and lots of people who didn't go to college or who worked to pay off their debts? Gonna be bad," The Week columnist Damon Linker tweeted

I think Dems are wildly underestimating the intensity of anger college loan cancelation is going to provoke. Those with college debt will be thrilled, of course. But lots and lots of people who didn't go to college or who worked to pay off their debts? Gonna be bad.

— Damon Linker (@DamonLinker) November 16, 2020

Others voiced their concerns, seemingly about increased taxes should student debt be cancelled. Social media editor for conservative news site The Blaze Jessica O'Donnell tweeted that the people paying would be "the people who already paid for our student loans." Another said that he wanted money he spent on community college refunded.

You’re not “canceling” a debt. You’re moving it. Someone has to pay.

And it’s going to be the people who already paid for our student loans because we worked hard and said “no” to a lot of fun things the folks with debt chose to say “yes” to.

— Jessica O’Donnell (@heckyessica) November 17, 2020

All I know is if these people get their student loans paid off, I better get refunded for the $3,899 I spent on community college.

— Jesse Kelly (@JesseKellyDC) November 17, 2020

While a number of people expressed their worries, others who have paid off loans, like How to Be an Antiracist author Ibram X. Kendi said they supported efforts to cancel debt. Kendi also criticized people for "trying to drive wedges between the American people" with the debate. Another user weighed in saying that she made sacrifices to pay off student debt (as well as other debt she incurred along the way), but argued that she'd be happy to cancel student debt so that others wouldn't have to deal with the same level of stress.

As someone who has paid off my student loans, I fully support the Democrats cancelling student loans. What makes me angry is people who are trying to drive wedges between the American people on an issue that should bring us together in this moment of mass economic suffering.

— Ibram X. Kendi (@DrIbram) November 17, 2020

I’ve paid several hundred dollars in student loans every month since I graduated college. I’ve never missed a payment. When I was first starting my career that meant skipping meals and credit card debt. I would love for nobody else to ever have to feel that stress.

— Ari Drennen ❄️ (@AriDrennen) November 17, 2020

i worked multiple jobs through college & paid off all of my student loans myself. i will be THRILLED when people who are still in student loan debt get relief via loan cancellation. people need to stop wanting others to suffer just because they think they suffered.

— tyler oakley (@tyleroakley) November 16, 2020

Ocasio-Cortez weighed in, criticizing those who are arguing against cancelling the debt. Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar responded to Linker's tweet with a similar rebuttal. Senator Bernie Sanders also made the argument that public college tuition in countries like Germany, France and more is free, and that the U.S. should follow suit.

“Things were bad for me, so they should stay bad for everyone else” is not a good argument against debt cancellation - student, medical, or otherwise. #CancelStudentDebt

— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) November 16, 2020

I think you’re wildly underestimating the anger of millions of people whose dreams have been held back or delayed because of the burden of student loan debt.

It’s beyond time to cancel every penny of student debt, and polling shows that the majority of voters are on board.

— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) November 16, 2020

Cost of public college tuition:

Germany: $0
France: $0
Sweden: $0
Norway: $0
Finland: $0
Brazil: $0
United States: $10,486

In the richest country in the world, yes, we must make public colleges and trade schools tuition-free and cancel all student debt.

— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) November 17, 2020

Some people have used humor to explain why people should support cancelling the debt. One writer compared it to paying for lifeguards, even when people know how to swim. Comedian Jaboukie Young-White made a hilarious dark joke, likening student debt to the disease ALS. "[N]ot wanting people to cancel student debt bc you already paid is like Lou Gehrig coming back to a Lou Gehrig's disease fundraiser like 'Halt,'" he tweeted.

not wanting people to cancel student debt bc you already paid is like Lou Gehrig coming back to a Lou Gehrig’s disease fundraiser like “Halt.”

— giabuchi lastrassi (@jaboukie) November 16, 2020

The argument against student debt forgiveness is essentially:

“Why should my city pay for lifeguards when I know how to swim?”

— michaelharriot (@michaelharriot) November 17, 2020

Sure student loan forgiveness would free countless people from debt peonage but think about how angry that would make some hypothetical selfish asshole who definitely isn’t me

— Ken Klippenstein (@kenklippenstein) November 16, 2020

Many others used the "Trolley Problem" meme to show how problematic it can be to argue against cancelling student debt. In the inversion of the classic ethics question, the trolley has already run over a group of people, while there is an opportunity to divert it, before running over another group. The bystander at the switch satirically asks, "Would it be fair to the people the trolley has already killed to divert it now?"

I see we're having the student loan forgiveness conversation again.

— Anthony Michael Kreis (@AnthonyMKreis) November 17, 2020
Student Debt
Students protest the rising costs of student loans for higher education on Hollywood Boulevard on September 22, 2012 in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles, California. David McNew/Getty