Letter to the Editor: Point of order Mr. Omdahl

Devils Lake Journal


This message is in response to a special written to the Devils Lake Journal by Lloyd Omdahl, printed in the May 27, 2022 issue.

What I think Mr. Omdahl does not comprehend is the fact that fairness is not, in fact, the issue when it comes to student debt. Erasing the current student debt (which seems to be just fine, considering student loan payments have been on hold for YEARS without any significant downfall) will stimulate the economy, encourage another generation of students to pursue higher education, and give this country a sorely-needed positivity boost from its citizens. I attended NDSU for 5.5 years with almost all my tuition paid for by academic and service scholarships. I worked multiple jobs on and off-campus while serving as a Resident Assistant for free housing, living with roommates to reduce rent, and even renting my professor’s garage out as an apartment to cut costs. I drove a manual 1990 Honda Civic that qualified to be an antique while I was in school, and I took more than 20 credits each semester to try to graduate on time.

I say all this not for a “woe is me” mentality, but to point out that the gross generalization in Mr. Omdahl’s article regarding the quote: “Students didn’t restrain themselves, renting private apartments instead of dorm rooms, eating out instead of peanut butter sandwiches, travelling on junkets, especially spring breaks to Florida, and driving better cars than the university faculty.” Not a SINGLE person I went to school with; and I have two bachelors’ degrees and half a master’s degree; lived this way. Did you know, at NDSU, which is often regarded as one of the more affordable four-year universities in North Dakota, that on-campus housing costs, at minimum, $440 a month?

The single rooms or apartments can cost students upwards of $600 per month. This does not include a meal plan, which costs over $700 a month. If a student doesn’t have a vehicle or job to be able to pay for independent groceries, this is often a student’s only option. Let’s break that down. Let’s say a student has a job paying $15/hour (which is twice the current federal minimum wage). That student needs to put in 40 hours of work a month before taxes in order to pay rent on their on campus housing. Just rent. Let’s factor in textbooks, utilities, and food (even peanut butter and bread for peanut butter sandwiches), and the amount of hours a student needs to work exceeds 80 or even 100 hours per month. I have never known a full-time college student to be able to work that much while pursuing an education. It isn’t feasible. Even a full-time student attending NDSU online and working a full 40-hour work week would not be able to afford the current living fees; not to mention tuition.

The only portion of Mr. Omdahl’s article that I find worth discussing is the question of those who have paid off their student loans. I understand the potential frustration behind that; I think we all can. However, just imagine these students, who are now functioning adults in the real world and the economy, spending that money on local goods, infrastructure, and community betterment instead of having it go invisibly towards an enormous sum of money, which accrues interest at a rate higher than any other loan structure. Imagine these students now purchasing homes instead of renting, and actively caring about their own property and the community they reside in. Imagine the tourism dollars from these students having the ability to take a trip once in a while. I believe the value in the economic stimulus will speak for itself if we can just decide once and for all to cancel student debt. I certainly wouldn’t be against a rebate for former students who were able to pay off their student debt, but I truly believe that the value of wiping the slate clean at this time will reap more benefits than continuing to hold it over our heads for an indeterminate amount of time.

For once, I would love to see the older population accept some sort of break for the current adults ages 18-40 as an inherently good thing, rather as some sort of perceived outrage because their experience was different. Attending school 30 years ago, as someone who is now around 50 years old, would have cost approximately $1,780 per year. After calculating inflation, this comes out to around $4,000 in 2022 dollars. Yearly tuition today as a North Dakota resident at NDSU? $10,618. No one is discrediting the hard work and determination it took to pay off these student loans. But maybe, just maybe, something has changed in the last 30 years and we should be adapting accordingly

Maddie Cummings, Devils Lake