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The Problem With College Is So Much Bigger Than Student Debt

Biden’s plan is a Band-Aid solution to a bigger issue: A low return on tuition for too many people. But there’s still hope for a better system.

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Photo Illustration: 731; Photo: Alamy

About 10 minutes after stepping to the podium of the Roosevelt Room on Aug. 24—having already regaled reporters with stories of wearing baseball spikes to his father’s workplace in Newark, Del., and driving a “nice used car” to his high school prom—President Joe Biden got around to the topic at hand. His administration planned to grant student loan forgiveness to more than 40 million Americans, with at least half seeing their debt wiped away. “We’ll provide more breathing room for the middle class so they’re less burdened by student debt,” he said. “And, quite frankly, fix the system itself.” Biden turned to his secretary of education, Miguel Cardona. “When we came in, we both acknowledged [it] was broken, in terms of … ” The president paused, considered whether to delve into the brokenness of the “system,” and thought better of it. He sighed.

“Anyway.”