By: Mike DeWitt
Here’s an eye-popping number for you: 1.3 trillion dollars. That’s higher than America’s car loans and credit card debt combined. It’s also the amount of student debt in this country–student loans comprise the second-highest form of consumer debt in America. No wonder student debt is raising waves in the community and rising higher of politician’s priority lists.
Today, in a morning conference call, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow initiated the #InTheRed campaign with Michigan State University student Tina Reyes to raise awareness of the staggering burden of student loan debt for college graduates and the need to focus on college affordability.
“Too many people in Michigan are saddled with decades of debt just because they wanted a fair shot to go to college and get ahead,” said Senator Stabenow. “Making college affordable will improve the lives of millions of Americans and boost our economy by giving graduates the ability to spend their money on a home, a car, and the needs of their families.”
The #InTheRed campaign is focused not only raising awareness of college debt, but also addressing the problem. Senator Stabenow introduced the proposals intended to curb the problem of student debt and to lessen the burden of being #InTheRed.
• Allow all federal student loan borrowers to refinance their high-interest loans down to the rates offered to new federal bowers in the 2013-2014 school year (3.86%)
• Index Pell Grant awards to adjust for inflation
• Create new partnerships among the federal government, states, and Indian tribes to help them waive resident tuition in two years of community and technical college programs for eligible students
The costs for these proposals, including the $120 billion needed over 10 years to cover the costs of community college and technical school, would be covered by closing corporate tax loopholes.
For students like Tina Reyes, a senior majoring in political science and public policy, the focus on the student debt problem is a long time coming and a beacon of hope for thousands of students burdened in debt.
“I am a first generation college student from Flint, Michigan, and without federal and private student loans I would not be able to attend Michigan State University,” explained Tina. “Even working multiple jobs, I am concerned about how I will be able to pay my student loan bills which will arrive within a year after my graduation.”
While shouldering a full class load at school, Tina has continually worked 30-40 hours a week to help cover her expenses. However, she will still graduate this upcoming spring with $100,000 in student loans, before interest.
“I support the #InTheRed campaign because it will shed light on how much student loan debt students like me will be struggling to pay,” Tina further added. “A lower interest rate on loans would mean thousands of dollars, and not only for me, but for other people as well.”
Currently, Michigan ranks ninth in the country on average student loan debt. 62 percent of students in Michigan graduate with student loan debt. A student who graduated from a 4-year Michigan college or university in 2014 owes almost $30,000 in loans on average.
The student debt bubble will continue to grow unless something is done. The #InTheRed campaign is striving for just that, “There’s been a fundamental lack of investment from both state and federal levels,” exclaimed Stabenow. “We haven’t seen a bipartisan support to address the problem and refocus on education. We hope there is bipartisan support for the #InTheRed campaign and that higher education sees the reinvestment it desperately needs.”