Gallagher: Biden’s student loan bailout will hurt military recruitment

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON — President Joe Biden’s student loan redistribution plan is not sitting well with a lot of Americans, and now it could have negative impacts on already slumping military recruitment numbers, according to a Wisconsin congressman.

U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-8th CD) joined 20 of his House Republican colleagues Thursday in sending a letter to Biden and Secretary of Defense Loyd Austin. Gallagher is Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Military Personnel.

The letter notes that the GI Bill and U.S. Armed Services student loan forgiveness programs are some of the most successful recruiting incentives available. The promise that the military will pay for schooling during or after completion of a service obligation is a “driving factor” in the decisions to join one of the branches of military service, the lawmakers write. A recent estimate from the Government Accountability Office showed that as many as 178,000 military members were eligible for some type of forgiveness.

“By forgiving such a wide swath of loans for borrowers, you are removing any leverage the Department of Defense maintained as one of the fastest and easiest ways to pay for higher education,” the letter states.

Biden recently announced his plan that cancels as much as $10,000 in student loan debt for individuals earning less than $125,000 a year, $20,000 for students who received federal Pell Grants.

The lawmakers say disaffection from potential recruits comes at a difficult time for the U.S. Armed Services, and a dangerous time for U.S. Security.

Just 23 percent of the population is eligible to serve in the military. Even fewer of those have an interest in serving. At the end of last month, the Army had only reached 66 percent of its recruiting goal for the year. The Navy, only 89 percent.

“It is no secret that each of the services continues to battle hardships in recruiting and now these problems will be exacerbated by removing the uniqueness of this benefit,” the letter states. As the services try to adopt unique approaches to tackle their recruiting challenges, including historic bonuses, it feels like their legs are being cut out from underneath them.

The Republican House members want to know:

  1. Was the effect on military service considered in the development of the recent student loan forgiveness decision?
  2. What is the administration’s plan to develop incentives to augment the loss of those who might join the military to help pay off student loans?
  3. What improvements are being made to ensure timely payments to those currently enrolled in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness programs for both active duty and reserve components?

Empower Wisconsin | Sept. 16, 2022

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