Student debt deserves our society’s attention. It deserves a solution that releases the burden for our young citizens while strengthening our nation's cultural foundation and our social fabric.
I have often wondered how to best address the 21st century requirement for leadership. How do we best develop citizens for this and the next century? I turn my mind to President Kennedy, and the establishment of first, the Peace Corps, and then, VISTA which embraced Americorps in 1993.
Could the issue of student debt be reframed from “transfer the debt of students to punish the wealthy and successful” to “relieve debt through service to country and world?”
What if we could make the following offer to every citizen: "By pledging no less than 3 and no more than 5 years of service to the U.S. Military, Americorps and Peace Corps, all of your education debt is relieved." Furthermore, this offer should be extended to every present student and future college or university student. One perspective is that his is a modification of the G.I. Bill; you just add Peace Corps and Americorps.
Each citizen could choose to serve before or after. You could serve and then go to college free (you go free wherever you are accepted), or you go to college and then you serve.
What about those who have debt and are gainfully employed? They would serve in a different capacity. They are not the “newbies” or the “green peas” but rather more experienced and could therefore volunteer in leadership roles for Americorps projects. 10 hours per week and the debt is forgiven in 3 years of service.
The entire project is structured around accountable software – project goals, progress, feedback to participants. Think of the opportunity for personal and leadership development courses to be prepared and presented to ALL project participants. This is another form of service to the serving groups.