I paid for my students loans. But we shouldn’t be so righteous about loan forgiveness.

ANDREW HARNIK AP
·3 min read

Welcome to NC Voices, where leaders, readers and experts from across North Carolina can speak on issues affecting our communities. Send submissions of 350 words or fewer to opinion@newsobserver.com.

Student loans: Don’t be righteous

The writer is an emerita professor of Asian History, Appalachian State University.

In recent weeks, I’ve read the op-eds and letters to the editor regarding the issues surrounding college student loan forgiveness with a sinking feeling.

Many of those who, like myself, borrowed money to go to college and paid it back seem to feel self-righteous about our ability to do so. We may also feel, that by contrast, those today who need to have relief from their school loans are just part of the generation who feel entitled to such help.

Today, many parents as well as the students put their financial futures on the line to pay for an education they hope will result in significant lifetime monetary rewards. What many of those who oppose loan forgiveness fail to consider is the dramatic increase in the cost of higher education without a commensurate increase in income and wages.

Paying my own way in the 1970s was a much more realistic, bootstrap proposition for a person who grew up in a lower working-class home, than it has become in subsequent years as tuition mushroomed. A look at the numbers from Education Data Initiative makes this clear.

For example, the average cost of college tuition and fees at public 4-year institutions has risen 179.2% over the last 20 years.

Tuition is not the only cost of college. Room and board on campus (or some off-campus accommodation), books, technology fees and other activity fees ratchet up the needs-based request on many student loans applications.

If the Biden administration is planning a vote-buying scheme for loan forgiveness going into the fall election, as claimed in the “Biden trying to buy votes with student debt relief” (May 10 Opinion), then I’d say if he does take action on his campaign promise it’s only because the looming student debt crisis hasn’t been addressed by previous legislatures or administrations of either party.

Dorothea Martin-Hoffman, Charlotte

False rhetoric on challenged books

The writer is a former teacher whose children attend Wake County public schools. She volunteers with Rainbow Collective and Apex Pride.

I am concerned about the rhetoric I hear surrounding challenged books in our school systems. In Wake County, there has been a lot of misinformation shared at school board meetings and on social media. I’d like to clear up a few things.

“Gender Queer” is not and has never been in any WCPSS elementary or middle school library. It is in some high school libraries, where it is age-appropriate. It is a book about a young person coming to terms with their gender identity. The speaker who claimed they were able to find it on their child’s ChromeBook did so by going to the Wake County Public Library website, not WCPSS. The school board has no control over the public library.

The book “Melissa” (formerly “George”) is about a fourth grade child who is struggling with her gender identity and how to tell her family and friends that she is actually a girl, not the boy they’ve always known her as. It’s an age appropriate account of something a surprising number of children experience. There are no sex acts or sexual activities in the book. There is one reference to girly magazines, but in the context those are magazines like Seventeen, Cosmo Girl and Ladies Home Journal. It’s not a reference to pornography, despite what some claim.

“Melissa” does not include incest. There isn’t anything close to incest in the book. Some have claimed the book discusses the child wanting to cut off her genitals. It does not. When Melissa comes out to her older brother he asks a question many people ask transgender kids (and adults). He asks if she has considered having surgery and she says she doesn’t know.

These two books have been challenged, not because they are inappropriate for the age levels, but because they feature transgender children. Those challenging them are confused about the difference between gender and sexuality. It is never inappropriate to discuss someone’s gender in schools.

Every school system has transgender students and students with transgender family members. It is critical that the school libraries have books that reflect their lives.

Erin Schultz, Apex