At the end of the day, it always comes back to the same question: is education a fundamental right?

For years, I’ve been covering politicians and how they’ve been able to effectively manipulate their constituents by using the ignorance of those same voters against them via unprovable “facts.” So, I can’t see how allowing an entire nation of people to have a free higher education is a bad thing.

It would appear I’m not alone.

Between the conversation I recently had with Denver resident Nicole West—a former student saddled with a never-ending student loan—and the fact that as of 2025, two years of college will be free in Colorado, it seems the idea of free education is a popular one.

And when you get into the nuts and bolts of everything, it’s easy to see why.


The Little Loan That Could … Live Forever—


When it comes to the debt West is still paying on, my initial reaction was that of confusion. In terms of loans, hers wasn’t that terrible. She took it out in 2015, stating, “[The loan was used to attend] the National Institute of Medical Aesthetics (NIMA) in Salt Lake City, Utah. My loan was for $15,000, [but] I was only approved with financial aid for $10,000. So, I took out $10,000 in student loans, and then $5,000 on a student credit card through Discover.” This loan also included an incredibly low interest rate of 4.6%.

Not only were the numbers favorable to West, but she was also able to use her degree by getting a job at a spa upon graduating from NIMA in 2016, becoming “the Master Aesthetician on staff.” This is also out of the ordinary as only 27% of undergraduate degree holders are working in a job that is directly related to their college major.

So why is it that even though West has “been making payments for seven years [overall]”—taking 2021 and 2022 off when all payment requirements had been halted under Biden COVID relief programs—she has only reduced her total by around a third?

The first reason is due to her payment amounts; they’re only about $150 per month. This is done to ensure that even a poor kid out of high school can afford the monthly charge. The negative side-effect to this is that it saddles students with these payments for decades.

According to West, “[It] feels like, with that tiny little loan, I’m going to be paying on it until the day I die. And the interest rates aren’t even that high. I’ve paid extra on it, I paid when there was no interest [in 2020], and it feels like it’s always the same.”

The second reason her overall loan amount isn’t lower has to do with the aforementioned two years of missed payments allotted for COVID relief. Said West, “We weren’t prepared for when COVID hit and the whole industry shut down.” She continued, “With this industry, [when COVID hit] it was really hard because, when people try to save money, that’s the first thing to go—getting their eyebrows done, getting their legs waxed, they’re not worried about that stuff when money’s tight.”

She wasn’t alone.

It was because of everyone’s lives being upended that the need to halt all federal student loan payments came about in the first place. West is just another example of someone who was able to translate their degree into career success, only to have to start all over again … all while paying on a loan for a degree that has little value in their current life. And to boot, she hasn’t been able to qualify for any of the Biden student debt forgiveness plans.

Of course, solving the problem of student loans running amok won’t be an easy task, given how political this form of debt relief has become. Currently, 76% of conservatives who oppose debt cancellation believe it’s unfair to those who already settled their loans.

Maybe if we could get them to adopt another perspective …


Student Loans ARE Predatory Loans—


Unfortunately, West is one of the (un)lucky Americans to not only have experienced the endless garbage that is a student loan, but she’s also someone who took out a predatory cash advance loan during COVID to help make ends meet.

To her, at their core, there is almost no difference between student and cash advance loans. “They both fuck you over. That’s really the best way to say it. Because, with the student loan, the interest rate is low, but you’re just paying on it forever. But the cash advance loans, the title loans, the interest rate is sky-high, but they [also] make your payment so high so you pay it off quicker. So, they’re opposite to me [in that way], but they still have the same amount of impact.”

And given that a majority (62%) of both Republican and Democrat voters oppose these kinds of predatory loan practices, student debt relief being added to the cause should be a no-brainer.

Of course, this is the US government. When considering that the predatory payday loan industry gave at least $82,500 to the campaigns of Republican lawmakers in 2023, I’m not holding my breath for change to occur at the national level.

Thankfully there are political leaders at the state level who understand the correlation between these debts and quality of life and are willing to put forth programs like the two-year free college in the Centennial State.


Step Right Up And Get An Associate’s—


In 2024, Governor Polis signed “The Colorado Promise Act.” In this act, it’s possible for a recent high school graduate to get two years of free college education in Colorado. To qualify, you have to enroll in a college within two years of graduating high school or an equivalent in Colorado, qualify for in-state tuition, have a family income of $90,000 or less per year, and hold a 2.5 or higher GPA. After paying your tuition, you will get a refund on your taxes the following year with all the proper documents.

When I told West about the program, her response about its positive potential was emphatic. “Two years of free education could change so many people’s lives. Even with my $10,000 loan, I didn’t think I’d be able to afford even that to go to school. And I know there’s a lot of people who are worse off than I was when I got my loan, so, if they don’t have to worry about college for two years, that would open up so many doors for so many people.”

At the end of the interview, West reconsidered her position on student/predatory loans and left me with a final thought that perfectly answers the question I posed in the opening sentence about the right to an education. “I think that student loans are almost even more predatory because education shouldn’t just be for people who are wealthy or who are well-off. I think that education should be a basic human right, so, in that regard, [student loans are] a little more predatory than a payday loan.”

She’s right.

But, to be honest, I believe that in a decade, student federal loans as we know them will be dead. By that time, Millennials will have started to take over political offices en masse and become the lawmakers. And because they hold almost half of the total national student debt amount, I’m sure that more than one of them will want to enact some law that will finally end their monthly payments.