In a fiery speech on the Senate floor today, Sen. Bernie Sanders read emails from Americans who are being crushed by student loan debt, and asked why the Senate bailed out Wall St., but won’t help students.
Video of Sen. Sanders on the Senate floor from C-SPAN:
Sen. Sanders said, “We have a major crisis in our country today in terms of the high cost of college and the incredible debt burden that college students and their families are facing. Our job is to improve that situation, to lessen the burden on students and their families – not to make it worse.” He then read parts of several emails that he had received from people who are being crushed by their student loan debt:
Emily Decker from Colchester, Vt., told the senator that “watching the interest eat away my savings every month is hard to swallow … This is putting our plans for having a family on hold because we want to have our finances in better order before doing so.”
Melissa Weber from Rutland, Vt., wrote: “I have found myself struggling to survive independently as a 25-year-old with a master’s degree. Yes, I have achieved a degree, of which I am proud, but I have also accumulated an immense amount of debt that will likely haunt me for the majority of my life. As a result of my daunting loan payments I find myself barely surviving on an income that should easily support a small family.”
“My wife and I both have $50K-$60K of loan debt each. We both have good jobs, but a large percentage of our income is used to pay back student loans … The education process should be rewarding and create opportunities. For my wife and me, it did the opposite,” wrote Evan Champagne from St. Albans, Vt.
Sanders continued, “When you tell people all over this country who are struggling with these horrendous debts that the Stafford subsidized loan debt is going to double, and there are proposals out there that make a bad situation worse, they really respond in disbelief. They remember how in 2009 Wall Street because of their greed and illegal behavior collapsed, we bailed them out. They understand that today we provide large Wall Street institutions with interest rates of less than one percent. And what they are asking is if you can bail Wall Street out, people whose greed caused the current recession, how you come you can’t protect working class and middle class families and enable their kids to get an affordable college education.”
Sen. Sanders then laid into the House Republican proposal, “The Republicans in the House passed a proposal. Unfortunately, it is a proposal which makes a bad situation worse. Under the House Republicans proposal all student loans would have variable interest rates, exposing graduates to market conditions. Even though the House Republicans proposal caps interest rates, the Congressional Research Service estimates that students who take out the maximum subsidized student loan amount will pay nearly $6,000 more over the life of that loan than they would if rates are kept where they are today.”
How can a society that claims to value education and opportunity bail out the greedy bankers and Wall Street tycoons who collapsed our economy, but refuse to keep student loan rates where they are today? Sen. Sanders’ point was that the current student loan system was already leaving people with crushing debt. The doubling of the interest rate has only made things worse. The bill that the House Republicans passed would make the problem worse, by making college even less affordable than it was before.
The only thing more deplorable than House Republicans trying to pass off a bill that actually raises the cost of going to college as a fix for the student loan crisis is the mainstream media passing off the Republican bill as a legitimate solution to the problem.
While some in Congress seem intent on trying to screw over students, Bernie Sanders is telling the truth and fighting against making college even less affordable for middle and working class Americans. President Obama often talks about education as being the key to our economic future, but if Republicans have their way, higher education will be a privileged reserved only for the affluent.
Students shouldn’t have to start their post graduation lives saddled with tens of thousands of dollars of debt. Students don’t have lobbyists and super PACs, but they do have a champion in Bernie Sanders. Banks got bailed out while students got their interest rates doubled. It is wrong, and Bernie Sanders is fighting to try to get the Senate to do what’s right.