Jamaican economist Dr Damien King is today (April 28) at the centre of controversy for a tweet in which he stood against student loan forgiveness, claiming it was an “arbitrary, unfair distribution of wealth”.
The tweet, seemingly done amid renewed conversation in the United States, triggered polarised reactions.
According to the executive director of the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CAPRI), forgiving all student loans does “nothing” for poorer citizens who did not borrow and equally struggled through university/college while paying their tuition in full.
King thinks it would be “better” for all tertiary students to receive an equitable subsidy, regardless of their indebtedness.
“Forgiving student loans is a bad idea since it’s an arbitrary, unfair distribution of wealth. A non-borrowing student who is equally poor but hustled to pay his fees, resulting in less studying time & lower grades, gets nothing. Better to give all an equal amout, indebed or not (sic),” tweeted King.
The CAPRI director was immediately criticised by the Jamaican Twitterati for missing the point that tertiary indebtedness could also be viewed by those affected as an “arbitrary, unfair distribution of wealth” and questioned whether he had empirical or statistical evidence to prove loan-taking students ‘fared better’ than poorer students who paid their tuition.
Many Twitter ‘netizens’ did not ascribe to the suggestion that students with tertiary loans should effectively be ‘punished’ for wanting to further their education and subsequent earning prospects upon graduation, when the average cost of tuition incrementally increases year-over-year.
By the same reasoning, Twitter users noted that to ‘level the playing field’, perhaps the ultra-rich and their peers should not be getting tax breaks. In the same vein, internet pundits wondered whether King’s line of thought would change if his rhetoric was applied to hospitals, where those who remain healthy ‘do not benefit’ from others being sick and in need of healthcare.
Some went a step further to add that the days of working part-time to finance one’s way through university are ‘long dead’ and to hold on to such ideological beliefs speaks more to ‘faux-equality’ than equity.
Others, while agreeing with King’s perspective, argued that they would not support student loan forgiveness as the current system of tertiary education makes higher learning a financial burden.
“Until the ACTUAL problem here is addressed I’m against forgiving student loans. The ACTUAL problem is 10’s of thousands of dollars in loans are needed by many to go to college. Make a college education AFFORDABLE w/o having to take out these loans,” replied user @RealityOfItAll7.
Sections of US Twitter, unaware Jamaica has its own share of student indebtedness, got in on the backlash and urged King to ‘stay out of American business’.
Those who outright supported King’s sentiments contended that the raging Twittersphere ‘did not read’ the tweet as intentioned, thereby missing the context of his argument.
For those against student loan forgiveness, they consider the idea that they toiled to pay their tuition to being ‘unfair’ while others get ahead with ‘little difficulty’.