On Dec. 26, in the commentary titled "Bankruptcy is the solution to the student loan crisis" (Opinion Exchange), Joe Nocera observed that "especially among conservatives ... [allowing loan forgiveness] wouldn't be fair to the millions of Americans who did pay off their student loans, often after years of financial struggle, they argue." Granted, there is a certain unfairness. But one way to not correct an evil is to create another one. The priority is for the federal government to provide former students burdened with impossible debt — debt encouraged by the federal government — with help from that same government.

Another factor to note is that the cost of college educations has increased faster that the rate of inflation. It is now even harder to pay off the debt.

Jim Bartos, Maple Grove
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I must disagree with the Bloomberg Opinion commentary by Joe Nocera that the allowance of bankruptcy forgiveness of student loan debt should be reinstated as the best solution to the student loan crisis. Bankruptcy would not only ruin former students' credit reports for seven or 10 years, but it would leave them with a permanent scar of financial failure early in their lifetime careers. Loan forgiveness would teach them nothing, and label them as part of the welfare state, stripping funds from others most in need through health issues, disabilities and old age. It would also be extremely unfair to all responsible students and their parents who worked and sacrificed to pay for college over many years.

So, what to do? We want to give every student a shot at higher education, whether trade schools or formal colleges, and we the taxpayers would rather not pay higher taxes or add ever more billions to national debt each year. I suggest a program where the IRS retains, say, 8% of gross earnings for up to the first 30 years of an individual's working career to pay down any education debt. Any remaining balance would then be forgiven, and individuals could save more for retirement during their final working career years. We all win with a well-trained, highly educated workforce contributing to a booming economy and paying their taxes.

Michael Tillemans, Minneapolis
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After reading the article on student loan debt, I have this to add: Student loan debt in this country is out of control. Case in point, my daughter, a special education teacher in an outer ring suburb, has over $100,000 in student loan debt. She worked full time managing a local sandwich shop while attending Minnesota State University, Moorhead. After graduation she went for her first interview in rural North Dakota. They offered her the job, but it paid less than what she was making managing the sandwich shop. Yes, you read that right, less. She then realized she needed to move to the Minneapolis-St. Paul area to increase the offered wages — not by much but at least it was on par with what she was making at the sandwich shop. Over the next few years she went back to school to get her master's degree and further still to attain various licensures. She pays $700 to $800 per month just on repaying her student loans.

Teachers as a whole work with our most valuable and sometimes vulnerable students, and the pay, as we all know, isn't great. But then to top it off, these teachers repay student loans. Our great nation needs to do better by those attending our universities and overhaul the student loan fiasco. And another article in the Dec. 26 Star Tribune on the University of Minnesota's budget chief making $400,000 per year (plus deferred compensation) makes me shake my head in disbelief ("At U, Frans faces same budget woes," front page). No wonder most students need to take financial aid to get them through university. It boggles my mind.

Dawn Neumann, Lakeville


Many versions of the same story

Star Tribune, it's Christmas morning as I write this, a time of joy, and you made me cry. Your front-page article "One among 5,000" was heartbreaking and so appropriate to publish. Thank you, Michael Wright and Lynn Wright, for sharing your story. As a nurse on a COVID unit in the Twin Cities, I can assure you that this story is playing out over and over as we lose more and more patients to this terrible virus. "Well-liked," "isolation from loved ones," "COVID roller coaster," "following every direction," "broke down crying" — this describes not just Michael's war against the virus but the fight of many patients who have succumbed to this illness. And the most difficult aspect of this pandemic is the disbelievers, the people who downplay the seriousness of the virus, the people who defy the masking and social distancing guidelines.

Michael would still be alive if he had not contracted COVID, and so would many of the other thousands of people who have passed away from this virus. Although the majority of victims are older, their lives are still valuable, they have many loved ones grieving for them, and they need our protection. COVID is real, and we need to unite to prevent others from contracting this disease. If 5,000 Minnesotans died in car accidents, or were murdered, or died in a war in 10 months, we would be outraged and demanding measures to prevent more deaths. We have guidelines in place to help reduce the power of this virus and limit the number of deaths. All of us just need to believe in these guidelines and follow them. Wear a mask, follow social distancing rules, and avoid large gatherings. Rest in peace, Michael Wright, and thanks for showing the world the reality of COVID-19.

Dawn Yetter, Blaine


Kids don't pick their parents, whether military or otherwise

Friday's front-page story "Kids 'hidden heroes' of deployment" was a touching read. I am thankful for women and men such as Jen and Brian Chaffee who take on military roles. It is definitely not an easy job, and not easy for the children either, as the story showed. The part of the story when Jen Chaffee stated that her kids "didn't sign up for this. ... They got born into it" got me thinking.

Every child on this earth gets born into their situation. I would argue that some babies end up in more fortunate lives than others. Right? Having been in the military myself, I know the government and society are supportive of those who serve and their families. Who does not want to help a veteran?

But what about the children in Minnesota who have only one parent (or no parents), but not just for a year? So many children live in tough situations through no fault of their own. Some have seen parents die due to gun violence or drugs. Others may be wondering where they will live or when they will eat next. Day-to-day living can be a challenge, and they do not have the pleasant distractions, nor the resources to help cope, as those in more fortunate lives do. I know the Star Tribune has done stories about those less fortunate. I thought another reminder cannot hurt.

So, while a new year begins and we get over COVID-19, let us not forget that many children, who did not sign up for their circumstances, are needing help. I hope the government and society give them the support they need like they do our vets and their families.

Christopher Bradshaw, Columbus
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Thank you for the story "Kids 'hidden heroes' of deployment." It brought me back to the Christmas 75 years ago when my dad came home from an infantry division in the Philippines. It was 1945; the war was finally over and so was our family separation. I was 6 years old and bubbling with ecstasy when he called from the railroad station. Even the cabdriver who brought him home caught the family joy. I can still see in my mind's eye the cabbie declining the fare that Dad offered. Bringing a soldier home to his family made his Christmas, too!

Over the years I have had many merry Christmases, but none to compare with Dad coming home from the war.

Roger M. Nelson, Woodbury

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