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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Serve your country to clear your student loans

Link college loans to civilian or military service, writes Steve Cohen in City Journal. "President Biden’s plan to 'forgive' student loans . . . rewards the wrong values and incentives," he argues. "It requires nothing in return, not even an acknowledgment of one’s responsibility."

Americorps volunteers qualify for money to pay for future education or pay off student loans.

Cohen has one son who paid off his loans, and now feels like a chump, and another who still owes tens of thousands of dollars and would like some relief.

He thinks a year of "minimally paid" national service for those who owe -- or those who want to be eligible for federal student aid -- would be seen as fair. It has the potential to "forge common experiences, develop important work habits, and expose participants to Americans different from themselves."

Imagine a greatly expanded Americorps program and a larger poll for military recruiters.

Two years ago, 80 percent of 18- to 22-year-olds and 88 percent of older adults supported mandatory civilian or military service, according to a poll Cohen funded. Last month, he polled again: Only 34 percent of young people and 38 percent of their elders favored mandatory service. He's not sure why the numbers fell so sharply. (I wonder about the poll's reliability.)

I'm not a fan of requiring everyone to work at a government-approved job. It requires a huge bureaucracy. Many reluctant "volunteers" will not be able to do anything useful. But requiring young people to do something to qualify for student aid or for loan forgiveness is a different idea.

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