Opinion: Elizabeth Warren’s Needed Call For Student Loan Reform

"As commencement season approaches, graduating students will soon hear words of wisdom from speakers offering experience, advice and inspiration. One thing they’re not likely to hear about is the $1.08 trillion elephant on the quad — our nation’s student debt crisis," The Washington Post columnist Katrina van den Heuvel writes in an opinion piece.

"Enter Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat who intuitively understands the urgency and scale of the crisis. Indeed, Warren is not just a longtime student of bankruptcy in the United States, but someone who understands what it means for a family to be at risk of losing everything. As she writes in her new book, 'A Fighting Chance,' out today, the rules are such that a sudden event — divorce, illness, unemployment — can pull the rug out from under anyone. 'A turn here, a turn there, and my life might have been very different, too,' she writes. …

Earlier this year, she proposed legislation that would allow individuals with existing student loans to refinance at the same lower rates that were set last summer for new loans. Warren’s plan would also enact the so-called 'Buffett rule,' which would establish a minimum tax on income over $1 million and would allocate the projected $50 billion in revenue exclusively for refinancing student debt. 'Do we invest in students or millionaires?' she asked in a speech at the Center for American Progress. ...

The United States could and should do much more to help middle- and low-income families afford postsecondary education — especially at a time when our economic growth depends on an educated workforce. As I’ve argued before, we could make public college or advanced training free to qualified students for about $30 billion annually — less, for instance, than the $483 billion in defense discretionary spending that Ryan’s budget would add over the next 10 years.

And people are squarely in Warren’s corner. Americans of both parties overwhelmingly favor keeping loan rates at their current rate or lowering them. Students continue to protest the status quo, and in Warren they now have a fierce, fearless advocate.

Commencement speakers usually call on their audiences to use their youth and idealism to tackle the nation’s most urgent problems. This year, commencement speakers from across the country should address the problem located on the very campuses that will host them, challenging students, lawmakers and college administrators to ensure that higher education remains an engine for growth, not a dead end of debt."

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