Student loan borrowers do not deserve “forgiveness”. They deserve an apology.

Are you still not convinced that the nation should seek absolution from debtors and not vice versa Consider the facts.

First, there is the Free Application for Financial Aid, or FAFSA, which for decades has yoked millions of students and families each year to its cumbersome form, confusing questions and confusing – and irritating – “expected family contribution. ” New legislation reduces the number of questions from 108 to a maximum of 36, but it too is so complex that it takes years to make the changes completely. And that does nothing to address the gap that exists between what the federal system (and a second, CSS profilesthat many private colleges use) “expects” and what seems realistic to many families.

So what about Pell Grants?

They were nominated for Senator Claiborne Pell in 1980, although earlier versions had been around for years because it had long been clear that lower-income teens couldn’t afford many colleges. But the help offered by those grants has decreased because lawmakers haven’t set the annual amount per person to keep track of any college cost ratios.

Filippo Levieconomics professor at Wellesley College and author of a new book called “An adaptation problem: how price complexity hurts students and universities,” he calculated to what extent this can leave low-income students.

Take teens from families with around $ 37,000 in income, which is about the 25th percentile of income and assets. According to his calculations, the public schools he looked at will ask students living on campus to pay around $ 14,000 annually, after accounting for Pell Grants and other scholarships. Even if these students run out of their federal loans – $ 5,500 for most of those freshmen – and take a job through the federal work-study program, they’ll still have thousands of dollars left each year to cover. Nobody cares about that gap.

While we ask these teenagers to borrow tens of thousands of dollars that we would never loan them for anything else, the government provides a menu of loan options. With some of this debt, interest starts ticking right away, years before you can drink legal beer.

There would be no debt problem if, as a nation, we prioritized funding public higher education. But we don’t. Among the 26 nations that of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development surveysonly Great Britain has a higher average tuition for public universities than the United States.