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Student Loan Debt

Student loan debt includes nearly $1.5+ trillion dollars borrowed from over 43 million Americans. Canceling this debt could mean someone else picking up the tab: (US) taxpayers, so let's find a way to make sure that doesn't happen. Let's also ensure that we create legislation that brings special attention to this type of debt by making it special from all others. Let’s change the law allowing students to discharge this type of debt in bankruptcy, expand the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, and get colleges and universities in on bearing some of the risk when students default on their loans or can’t find a job that aligns with their field of study.

Decades ago, a man by the name of Dwight Eisenhower had a desire to go to college and get a higher education, but like so many of us, he was unable to afford it. Him and his brother made a pact to take alternate years at college while the other one worked to earn the tuitions. That’s why in 1958, in Dwight’s second term of office as President of the United States he signed into law the National Defense Education Act of 1958, making it possible for millions to borrow money from the federal government to achieve their educational goals.

Since then, the program has evolved multiple times, but the goal remains the same: to provide a higher education to millions of Americans who wouldn’t have otherwise been able to afford it. The problem is that demand drives up costs, and unfortunately that’s what happened with college expenses. Each year, college costs continue to rise, and students take out more and more loans to meet their needs while they complete class requirements. In recent years, it was reported that altogether students owe a whopping $1.6 trillion. There’s no doubt, we are facing a national student loan debt crisis. Here’s some things that will help solve this problem: 

  • Livable wages & Income Equality. Increase the net worth of individuals who have college debt by providing them with livable wages, insurance and other benefits. Employers are simply not paying their workers enough money when they know they can. All the money is going to the top instead of being properly distributed for the amount of work that is performed by employees. Therefore, I promise to work with experts in the field to introduce legislation which will create a system to determine fair pay which I will fight to have enforced by the Department of Labor. If employers will not voluntarily provide livable wages, then I believe we must make them. 

  • Lowering or canceling the student loan payment, reviewing interest rates (across the board), and extending the time to repay loans through Income-Driven Repayment Plans. If the American government found a way to bailout the auto and bank industries, then it can find a way to bailout hardworking Americans who are struggling to pay their bills. As a senator, I promise to support these types of ideas because they are designed to make debt manageable. 

  • Allowing the debt to be treated specially from all others with the ability to be discharged through bankruptcy and/or not held against one when refinancing or applying for credit/mortgage as long as the debt remains in repayment status. 

  • Expanding the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. The PSLF Program must be maintained at all costs. We must reward individuals for paying it forward with their education by working full-time in a federal, state, local, or tribal government and/or non-profit. 

  • Holding colleges and universities accountable for their promises. As a U.S. Senator, I intend on providing research and study into rising college costs compared to completion rates and taking a special look into institutional failures in fulfilling mobility promises (ex. Students not graduating, being unable to find sufficient income, being unable to repay college costs), to better understand the effectiveness of our taxpayer dollars.   

In times past, we've had senators who believe that income-share agreements are the solution to the rise in student loan debt.  An income-share agreement is where a student’s education program is funded entirely by a private entity with the hope that when the student graduates, the student will then work and generate revenue and pay back, in some cases, 2.5 times the amount of their coursework over a period of time that may last longer than the entire education program itself. Sounds more like an indentured-servant program to me and one that forces students to bet against themselves. I disagree with this. 

The bottom line is this: people should never be punished for wanting to get or acquire a higher education in America. Why? Because we want the brightest, the most educated, and the most talented individuals for the purposes of innovation, progress, and to maintain our worldwide leadership. So, while my standard for taking responsibility will simply not allow me to side with completely canceling all student loan debt for every person, I can promise to hold colleges accountable for their promises and their tuitions, support income-driven repayment plans, work to ensure student loan debt can be discharged in some cases, and fight day and night with my colleagues for livable wages.

Paid for By Hoosiers for Haneefah 
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