In Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” Laertes is about to head back to his studies in Paris when his father Polonius offers some parting advice: Dress in a “rich, not gaudy” manner, “for the apparel oft proclaims the man,” the father says, before adding, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.” Polonius, the chief counselor to King Claudius, can afford to insulate his son from any worries about money.
That’s not the case for millions of Americans who have had no choice but to borrow – especially given that four years of college, including living expenses, now can cost more than $140,000. For many of these Americans, President Joe Biden’s decision last week to forgive up to $20,000 in student debt is welcome news. The move also touched off a nationwide debate over who will benefit and who will not, with a multitude of views about fairness and the short- and long-term consequences.
“The cost of higher education has skyrocketed over the course of four decades,” wrote historian Julian Zelizer, “and for Americans who have been crushed under the weight of student loans, Biden’s move is a big deal.” Like his Democratic predecessors in the White House, Biden took an incremental step that could set the stage for further action in the future, Zelizer noted.
Writing for CNN Business Perspectives in advance of the decision, Derrick Joh