“Working Off” Student Debt

A letter writer in The Wall Street Journal‘s Tuesday Letters section posited an alternative to student debt: trade it for community service.

I would readily support loan forgiveness if the beneficiary were required to do community service for the forgiven debt.

Only so long as the community service work is low-skill, low-education work, with the student debt scofflaw—because that’s what he still would be—working directly under the controlling supervision of a low-skill, low-education person who’s had that job for a while.

Let the scofflaw see who he’s displacing with his preciousness and his debt-ducking.

Let him see the college student, during the school year, trying to earn some night shift money with which to pay for some college without “borrowing” money.

Let him see the high schooler trying to earn some summer job money and to obtain some initial, entry-level work experience for his future use in working his way up the employment and economic ladders.

On that last, especially, I employed a high school sophomore last summer to mow my lawn, edge it, and clean the sidewalk of the mowing and edging detritus. I ordinarily do my own yard work, but this enterprising young man, by his enterprise, earned the job. A student debt scofflaw would get this sort of work from me only if he worked under the hiring and firing authority of my high school sophomore contractor. Which would give the sophomore some valuable supervisory experience, too.

Which supervisory experience also would benefit those other low-skill, low-education workers for whom the community service debtors would be working.

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