Degrees Not Debt: Which Senators are speaking up for students and the middle class?

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by Colleen Flaherty

Last week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren introduced the Bank of Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act to help the 40 million Americans struggling with student loan debt.

The act—which has 29 co-sponsors in the Senate—and a similar bill in the House would allow those with student debt to refinance at the current low rate. In order to cover the cost of refinancing, the bill would implement the “Buffet Rule,” a minimum tax rate of 30 percent for individuals with incomes of $1 million or more to ensure the wealthiest pay their fair share to help the 99 percent of Americans affected by this growing debt.

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“This debt is crushing our former students. It is crushing our families. And it’s starting to create a drag on our economy,” said Warren.

Who else is joining Warren to speak up for the more than 70 percent of America’s students who have to borrow money to attend college?

Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin

In her role on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) alongside Warren, the Wisconsin senator continues her fight to make higher education affordable. As a U.S. Representative, she voted for several bills to help college students, including the overhaul of the student loan program, which took away more than $60 million of profit that big banks were making off of students, all while working to prevent student loan interest rates from skyrocketing.

“Making college affordable is one of the most important steps we can take toward building a strong path to the middle class for all Americans,” said Baldwin.

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Alaska Sen. Mark Begich

Mark Begich has fought for college students to borrow at lower rates and aims to keep college attainable and affordable for those who want to attend.

“By allowing students to refinance at a lower rate, and giving them more flexible repayment options, we give the opportunity of higher education to millions of students without the crippling burden of debt too many individuals currently face,” said Begich, whose home state of Alaska has student debt averaging $28,782.

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Washington Sen. Patty Murray

Patty Murray has shown herself to be a friend to students and working families time and time again, whether it was expanding Pell Grant funding, fighting for a fair minimum wage or crafting and passing a budget that was better for public schools and the middle class.

“Too many Americans across the country are struggling right now with the overbearing financial weight of college debt, and that needs to change,” said Murray.

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California Sen. Barbara Boxer

Barbara Boxer has spent much of her career fighting for higher education accessibility, including her support of the DREAM Act and her support of increasing Pell Grants. She now joins Warren to fight for those who have been able to get their degree only to find themselves drowning in debt.

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Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow

“Today, too many people are saddled with decades of debt just because they wanted a fair shot to go to college and get ahead,” said Debbie Stabenow on behalf of her constituents in Michigan where the average student loan debt is a staggering $28,840.

As the national student debt currently stands at $1.2 trillion, Stabenow supports the bill to “make college more affordable and to help borrowers who are already weighed down by exploding and unsustainable levels of student debt.”

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New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

“While a higher education remains the clearest path into the middle class, more of our graduates and middle class families are burdened by student loans than ever before and are struggling to repay a higher amount of debt than ever before,” said Kirsten Gillibrand.

“This high amount of student debt is dragging down our economy, stopping graduates from buying homes and cars, or starting businesses and families. The solution is right in front of us—our graduates should be able to refinance their debt in the same way that our businesses and homeowners do.”

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Colorado Sen. Mark Udall

Mark Udall has fought to keep college affordable, and now he is supporting legislation to help the 760,000 Coloradans who have outstanding federal loans, according to U.S. Department of Education estimates.

“This common-sense bill would allow students to benefit from today’s low interest rates and could amount to hundreds or thousands of dollars a year in savings. I am committed to working to keep tuition rates affordable, but this bill is essential to help today’s students save money and invest in their futures,” said Udall.

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Reader Comments

  1. Thought your comment “Who do I work for Billionaires or students” was a trick question. I thought you represented Americans, not specific subgroups… I guess I’m naive. No wonder nothing gets done in Washington if politicians have your attitude

  2. I’m a Democrat but beginning to work together with Republicans to fight Common Core. The fact that this is only Democrats supporting this bill is bewildering. It’s such a common sense bill. I think it shows who is on the banks’ rolls. That’s unfortunate.

  3. Get this. I assumed the responsibility of my son’s college loans. One was bought up by “Discover Student Loans.” The interest rate was 9.75%, a high rate, but not unreasonable since I set up payments that exceeded the minimum monthly payment. I have, admittedly not been paying attention to the status of the loan until recently, believing that my 28 monthly payments were putting a dent in it. Yesterday (Friday evening), I looked into the account, and saw that the original loan of $9,000 had mushroomed into a balance of $10,996.97 – AFTER PAYING ABOUT $3,000 toward the loan!!! This has GOT TO BE ILLEGAL! I will be contacting my Congressional Representatives and whomever else will listen about this on Monday, when they return to “work.”

    1. Tell me about it. I borrowed $23,000 in 1997 to pay for two years of graduate school, thinking, as did you, that it would be set up like a car loan, and that if you just made the monthly payments, you woul have it paid off in 5 or 6 years. Then I got MY letter telling them that after paying for 3 years, I owed them $25,000. I wrote my two representatives–Dick Durbin (D-IL) and then Rep. Mark Kirk (R-10th)–and got a form to fill out from Durbin’s office. Kirk’s office actually looked into it, resulting in a letter from Sallie Mae explaining that basically the loan is set up like a revolving charge card. The interest just keeps piling on. According to their calculations, I should have my loan paid off when I’m 84 years old. I was 41 when I got my master’s degree. I’m 58 now, and I’ve managed to whittle it down to $19,000. Think I’ll live long enough to pay it off! That doesn’t take into account that when I retire my income will go down to about $32,000…IF the sleazy state of IL honors its pension obligation (not likely). The state says it can’t afford to pay our pensions, because they borrowed from our pension fund to pay for other things, and now they don’t have enough money, so they’re “reforming” our pension system so they can pay us less. I say turnabout’s fair play. What say we all tell these student loan companies we need to reform our loan because WE don’t have the money? At least for most of us, we will already have paid the actual loan back already.

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