What to Pursue; Money or Fulfillment?

Barack Obama was recently berated in the Wall Street Journal’s opinion section in regards to his federal debt forgiveness programs related to student debt. One such program is a limit on how many years after graduating that your debt can follow you. For some jobs sectors, such as government employees, this can be as little as ten years. Another aspect of Obama’s program is limiting the percentage of your income that has to be paid towards student debt. With the numbers of those enrolling in this program increasing, the articles main criticism of the program is that it is becoming increasingly costly for the taxpayer.

While the author has a point in that the more people who sign up for this program, the more expensive it is, this is the case for many government programs including food stamps, welfare, etc. The writer also claims that it is a negative point that such programs incentivize going into lower paying fields if the government will forgive their student debt faster. While this may be the case, isn’t it better to have people in some positions who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford to take a lower paying job if that is what they want to do for work? I know some grad school students and phd candidates not only get their tuition covered, they get a stipend for living expenses. While this isn’t the case for any undergraduate programs (that I know of), going easier on their student debt can incentivize and allow more people to pursue fields with lower pay that they find more fulfilling even though it may not require an advanced degree.

The article takes a tough stance on fields of study that don’t have high pay and whose graduates are likely to need help paying back their student debt because their chosen career doesn’t allow them to make enough money. I took issue with this because for many people, their preferences are such that personal fulfillment and happiness at work is much more important than earning a high salary. Most of these people understand that when they choose their field of study in college that they may not make as much as an engineering or finance major. My point is that high levels of debt is a major cause of unhappiness and stress, and while programs that help forgive debt can be expensive, they are a drop in the bucket in terms of the United States’ federal budget and federal debt but if they allow students to pursue passions that they otherwise wouldn’t have, then isn’t it money well spent?

One thought on “What to Pursue; Money or Fulfillment?

  1. jhchamot

    Great post. I completely agree; esecially with your point about people’s motives for going into a field. Not everyone has a purely-monetary incentive for choosing a career, and it is important to note this is issues like this one.

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