ONE common campaign issue among the 2020 Democratic hopefuls is that students should not be forced to pay back college loans.

Now, if someone owed one of these candidates $150,000 and refused to pay it back, I’d bet dollars to donuts that the borrower would be sued in a heartbeat.

But since the loss will be someone else’s problem, politicians don’t seem to care. After all, it will either be a big bank or the government that will take the loss, and both have plenty of money.

What they fail to understand—or intentionally ignore—is that these loan losses eventually go back to the people, to you and me. Banks are owned by stockholders and almost every American pays taxes.

Writing off college loans takes money out of the average working man’s pocket. You can figure it any way you want, but that’s the bottom line. If the students don’t pay, we do. And the working man doesn’t need another financial burden.

What nobody ever wants to discuss is how these students got so far in debt in the first place. Why did they take out college loans that will burden them until they are almost ready to draw Social Security?

The answer is simple: bullying, a tactic that we tell our children they should never use.

But parents use it all the time to force their kids into going to college.

“You can’t be a success unless you have a college degree! Do you want to wind up working on a garbage truck? You must have a college degree to get ahead in this world.”

Teachers use the same tactics, impressing upon their students that education is the most important thing in the world and those without degrees are lost.

A few years ago at a Board of Supervisors meeting where teacher salaries were being discussed, I listened as a very articulate but snooty man stood at the podium and said, “In today’s world, anyone without a college degree is a loser!”

He didn’t realize that he had just declared that four out of the seven supervisors before him—at least two of them millionaires—were losers.

Guidance counselors tell students how much more money college graduates make and lead kids to believe that everyone with a degree enters the workforce earning a $50,000-a-year salary.

They add that there is plenty of money available if you can’t afford tuition. Repaying loans seems so easy when you have a high-paying job.

There is peer pressure. If all your friends are going to college, you are expected to go, too, whether you can afford it or not.

A great deal of this problem also rests with the business community, which often requires an applicant to have a college degree to be qualified for the job.

If someone applied for a position and the employer said, “I know you can do the job but I can’t hire you because you’re black” the company would be sued to high heaven, and rightfully so.

The same would be true if the employer said, “I know you can do the job, but I can’t hire you because you are a woman.”

But if he says, “I know you can do the job, but I can’t hire you because you don’t have a college degree, well, that’s alright.

It may be accepted, but it is still discrimination.

So, everyone from parents to the business community bullies kids into going to college and taking out big loans to get a degree that often turns out to be useless. And nobody but nobody seems to want to tell high school students that it is possible to make a good living without a college degree. Trades, it seems, have become second-class professions.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the cost of college tuition has risen 1,100 percent since 1978. That’s incredible.

Meanwhile, with more college grads in the labor force, high-paying starter jobs are becoming harder and harder to find. It is no wonder graduates are becoming disillusioned and don’t want to—or can’t—pay back their college loans.

Once, higher education was a noble undertaking. Today, it is almost a racket. It is no longer about education; it is all about the money.

It is about helping brainwashed kids get easy money that they may never be able to pay back. It is about making every kid believe he can be a highly paid bank president when he can’t.

Then, when the graduate settles for a job driving a truck and can’t afford his college loan payment, the government wants to absolve him of any responsibility.

Maybe, as with other social issues, we need t o go back to the root of the problem when we seek to remedy the situation.

But then higher education might suffer financially.

And it is all about the money.

A meaningful college degree is wonderful. But everyone is not meant to go to college. A person with a trade is as valuable to society as someone with a college degree.

One day, Americans will understand that.

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Columnist Donnie Johnston lives in Culpeper County. Write him at

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