Guest post: Small steps could lighten a generation’s crushing student debt

"I'll be in debt with student loans for the next 20 years." (Photo by Lauren Metter, Creative Commons via Flickr)

Growing up, my generation had one thing hammered into our heads: to succeed in life, you have to go to college. However, few teenagers, myself included, really understood how this debt would affect their lives in the long run. When I was signing my student loan paperwork before my freshman year of college, all of those zeros didn’t seem real.

Now, over a decade out of school, I am still paying back the loans I agreed to when I was 18. Many people in my generation find themselves in the same boat.

Student debt is a looming threat to the economic future of Colorado and the country. According to the Student Borrower Protection Center, over 44 million Americans are burdened with student debt. That translates to $1.5 trillion in outstanding debt, and one of every four borrowers is behind on their payments. Today, the average student in Colorado graduates with over $34,000 in debt. Even a slight decline in the overall economy could send millions of borrowers into economic ruin, and the whole of the U.S. economy along with it.

Instead of addressing the student debt crisis, the current administration has refused to take the smallest steps to alleviate the problem. Instead of protecting our basic rights, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Acting Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Mick Mulvaney are leaving borrowers across the nation to the mercy of unscrupulous and unaccountable lenders and loan servicers.

There are some ambitious programs being floated to address the student debt crisis, such as student loan forgiveness and free college for all. Tax increases to make college more affordable seem to be a non-starter (see the defeat of Amendment 73 in this year’s election). In the meantime, there are steps we can take to mitigate the burden of student debt.

The first and most common sense step is for states to take the lead and pass laws regulating student debt loan servicers. If someone wants to pay off their loan, they should be able to trust that they are being given accurate information so that they can pay back their loans in the fastest and cheapest way possible.

In the next legislative session, State Sen. Faith Winter will introduce the Student Debt Servicer Accountability Act, which would make student loan collectors follow the same rules as lenders in other sectors, such as credit cards, mortgages or car loans. It would provide oversight so that students don’t have to worry about loan servicers overcharging or steering them into more expensive repayment plans.

Young people turned out in record numbers in the last election. It is time for us to raise our voices and demand legislation that addresses our concerns.

We need to fight to ensure that our leaders recognize the critical role they must play in protecting student borrowers. We need to elevate the voices and stories of borrowers who have been taken advantage of by their student loan servicers. We need to encourage borrowers to take concrete action to affect change.

My generation values education. We want to repay our loans. All we are asking for is a fair and just process so that we can get on with our lives.

The Colorado Independent occasionally runs guest posts from government officials, local experts and concerned citizens on a variety of topics. These posts are meant to provide diverse perspectives and do not represent the views of The Independent. To pitch a guest post, please contact tips@coloradoindependent.com or visit our submission page

4 COMMENTS

  1. Before the federal government was so steeply involved in education, education was affordable. So was health care, etc, etc, etc. Let me just pop in one more point here; Nobody has any financial ‘rights’ to take on debt, and We The People are under no obligation what so ever to subsidize others education or provide them financial relief. That’s their own decision and is not anyone’s responsibility but their own. It’s doubtful that even more ‘regulation’ will correct the run away freight train which is Americans insatiable desire for more debt, and international lenders willingness to extend it. Higher education is clearly failing and persons seeking a better life are well advised to seek occupational education rather than general education at universities. If the concern is financially related the solution is obviously better financial education, and should not be to request an even larger government which will create even more regulatory hurdles, and more cost for students. “We’re from the government, and we’re here to help.” Anyone still buying that? Sort of hard to sell financial and dangers of debt education to the masses these days, given the constant private partnerships educational institutions engage in with corporations. If students are being taken advantage of, that’s because they were not educated enough on contracts and debt in the first place, and should never have been extended credit because they were not ready for those responsibilities and were subsequently not ready and qualified to source a fair deal from the free market. Article 1, Section 10; No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility. I’m here on the clean sweep platform…

  2. After the 2008 financial crisis, the only entity that received its handout were the banks, financial institutions and Wall Street. This handout included bailouts, tax incentives and more recently a $1 TRILLION tax cut. In this country we seem to reward the problem verse correcting it. Apparently, it never dawned on the government that it owes the American people a bailout. The rise in student debt has only saddled the American people to the point that we cannot witness the fruits of our own labor. One-third of our paychecks are going to tax before we even get our paychecks, followed by another one-third going towards paying off student debt. None of this takes into account the constant rise in the cost of living. This kind of debt has become a mortgage in and of itself and we must wonder why millennials are broke and cannot afford a home. Until we recognize that the much not needed $1 TRILLION tax cut this government gave to the wealthy COULD have been used to provide some relief or incentives to burdened student borrowers, we will continue to stymie our future generations. Sadly, it will take another financial crisis for this reactive country of ours to recognize this.

  3. Mr. Erickson decided to pursue worthless degrees;and the debt. He’s lucky he’s not working at Burger King instead of “Organizing” at a non profit, which is more than likely taxpayer funded.

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