by Colleen Flaherty
“Students want degrees, not debt,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), opening up debate on Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) student loan refinancing bill.
Unfortunately, Senate Republicans blocked Warren’s bill today, the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act, which would have helped millions of Americans with existing federal student loans and private loans in good standing to refinance at a lower rate to make repayment more manageable.
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“Millions of young people are just stuck,” said Warren. “All because they are struggling under the weight of student loan debt.”
The objection by the Senate GOP was the inclusion of the Buffet rule to pay for the legislation, a minimum tax rate of 30 percent for individuals with incomes of $1 million or more.
“It’s just an approach to make this fair. It’s for people who make millions a year or even billions a year, asking them to pay what the rest of us pay, what middle class Americans pay,” said Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.). “This is just fair. It’s the least we can do.”
It’s clear that many in the Senate prioritize special interests over the the forty million Americans that have student loan debt. More than 70 percent of America’s students borrow money to attend college, and the average student graduates from college owning nearly $30,000. The act would have allowed an estimated 25 million student loan borrowers to refinance at a lower rate.
Last week, hundreds of people from across the country shared stories of what it’s like to live with crippling student loan debt. Here are just a handful:
I currently owe over $120,000 in federal student loan debt. I work for a public program providing Early Intervention services as a physical therapist, but because I am married and file my taxes jointly with my husband, I was informed that I do not qualify for public service loan forgiveness because we make ‘too much’ money with our combined salaries. However, because of my student loan debt, we have had to make decisions to delay buying a house, buying a car, and having children. It’s taking us a long time to save up enough money to do these things and avoid adding to our debt, because we believe in living within our means and only purchasing what we can afford each month.
It is sad that, while I chose to go into public service and dedicate my professional career to helping others overcome disability and other hurdles, I am punished with a crushing debt that prevents us from diving into The American Dream. As children, we were told college was the immediate gateway to success: ‘Go to college, then you’ll get a good job.’ But how are we supposed to boost the economy and in turn support the jobs of others with our purchases and spending if we cannot afford to do it?
– Ashleigh W, Beaverton, OR
A good friend just shared with me that her student debt is $64,000; she is expected to pay over $1000 a month. A single mom with 3 kids, she has a ‘good’ job, but the student loan will take nearly one half of her take home pay! My daughter just received her LPN degree, it scares me to think what her student debt will be. Living in a low income area (these people need good nurses, too) she will never make enough to pay off her loan.
– Jacki C., Fairfield Bay, AR
I am a special education teacher who has her Master’s degree. I have worked in a rural school with high poverty rates. My student loan debt now totals $100,000 dollars. I love teaching and could never imagine doing anything else, however I have three children who I support. I make $33,000 dollars a year and spend hundreds each year of my own money on students. I don’t want a free ride.
I want to pay back my debt, but the $1,000 a month student loan payments I am expected to pay are not doable for me. I am told that $500 a month should be affordable for me to pay. I wish that was a reality; however, I am struggling to provide daycare, shelter and food for my family.
– Jessica B., Sedalia, MO
When I went college in the 1970s, I was a single parent and was able to get government student loans with an interest rate of 1-3 percent. I graduated and was able to easily pay off the loans while working and going to school.
Today my nephew has non-governmental student loans with an exorbitant interest rate. Therefore, he won’t be able to afford decent housing even though he has a teaching position at a university and a working wife.
What’s wrong with this picture?
– Donna W., Silver Spring, MD
My granddaughter graduated this year with an overwhelming debt of over $50,000. She and her husband both work entry level jobs, and they are expecting their first child. They are currently living with her parents because they cannot afford their own home.
I think it is unconscionable that the government subsidizes industries which are making record profits, while making money, along with the banking industry, on the backs of our young people who have had their chances to live a comfortable and productive life strangled by debt. Students should at least be allowed to refinance at the same interest rate that is allowed the Wall Street banks. These debts should be eligible for bankruptcy as well since most students and their parents are essentially bankrupt by the time they graduate.
The government should be creating solutions for these young citizens who could contribute to the economic growth of America instead of furthering the greed of those who essentially steal from this country.
– Ann R., Littlefield, TX
I knew beginning my college experience that I wanted more than a degree, I wanted a career. I found Speech-Language Pathology in my junior year and needed to complete the prerequisites before even applying for graduate school, which is required to practice. After 5 long years of undergrad, my hard work paid off and I was accepted into an out-of state graduate program. I had found my career. I knew the instant I began this was the right path for me. And two years later I can finally start practicing.
But my new job comes with a mountain of student loan debt. I am in more debt that I could have ever imagined before starting college. However, I try to tell myself each day that I will get through this because I will love my job. I can say that my hard work will allow me to help others for the rest of my life, and I’m proud of that. I’m proud of my accomplishments and my chosen career, I just wish I didn’t have the cloud of debt hanging over my head each day.
– Hannah D., Milwaukee, WI
Has student loan debt affected you or someone you know? Share your story with us!