One of the fundamental principles of sound economic policy is that people in similar situations should be treated in the same way. The cancellation of student loans would undermine this principle. It would be a slap in the face for people from modest backgrounds who have attended college but have never incurred debt or have already paid it off. What would the administration say to someone who struggled for years to pay off their student loans, only to finally get out of debt last month? Or to people who chose to attend their local community college over a more expensive four-year college because they didn’t want to borrow? Or people who avoided going into debt while serving in the military to qualify for GI Bill benefits?

The policy would also prioritize student debtors above other borrowers. It’s hard to justify. People who suffer serious injuries from car accidents may have significant medical debt through no fault of their own, while student borrowers have chosen to go into debt. What would the administration say to the indebted survivor of a car accident who is struggling to pay his medical bills?

The forgiveness of student loans also sets a terrible precedent. Since prospective students might reasonably expect their debt to be forgiven as well, there is a real risk that this will encourage excessive borrowing. This would further increase the burden of student debt, compounding the very problem the administration hopes to solve. It would also fuel calls for additional rounds of debt cancellation.

Biden’s potential proposal has already angered some left and right. As economists, we won’t get into the political pitfalls facing the president’s plan. But we will note that we are leaning towards different sides of the aisle and believe there are better solutions that could garner bipartisan support.

A better option to help borrowers already exists: allowing people to repay their loans based on their income. In the latest version of “income-based repayment,” the revised Pay As You Earn plan, payments are set at 10% of the borrower’s discretionary income (defined as income above 150% of the federal poverty level) . Any remaining debt is canceled after 20 years of payments. Since the IDR links payments to income, there is much less risk that a borrower will face unaffordable payments or default on their loan. Although IDR enrollment has increased in recent years, a surprisingly small number of people are taking advantage of the program. In the most recent data, just over 30% of borrowers opt for IDR. Take-up is lower among borrowers with lower incomes, for whom it might be most useful, than among middle-income borrowers. Making IDR registration easier and streamlining the annual process for determining required payments could increase IDR registrations. Although the standard mortgage-style repayment plan is best for some borrowers, there is an argument that IDR should be the default student loan repayment plan.

Removing significant barriers to paying off student loan debt in bankruptcy could also help. Under current law, and unlike other debt, student loan debt can only be discharged if a borrower shows they would face “undue hardship” in repaying the debt. The courts have interpreted this to be a high standard and only a very small number of student borrowers manage to pay off their debt through bankruptcy. Putting student loan debt on the same footing as other debt in bankruptcy could go a long way to easing the burden of student debt for borrowers who really can’t repay it.

Finally, if the goal is to help low-income people struggling with student debt, another option to consider would be an expansion of federal income grants. A more generous earned income tax credit could help these borrowers manage their bills while encouraging many of them to increase their earnings in the labor market. A targeted expansion to low-income and working-class households would avoid the problem of transferring money to affluent middle-class professionals.

There are no free meals. Spending federal funds to forgive student loan debt would leave less tax revenue for other programs. The choices are not just general debt forgiveness or acceptance of the status quo. There are far more effective ways to help those most in need among us, including struggling student borrowers, than blanket student loan debt forgiveness.