I was in college and law school in the 1980s when the origins of the current student loan insanity were taking root. Tuition levels had started their upward spikes, and loans increasingly supplanted grant monies as primary forms of financial aid.
It’s why I’ve been an advocate for student loan forgiveness programs since I was a law student at New York University. In fact, I was part of a student group that designed and successfully lobbied for NYU’s loan repayment assistance program for graduates in public interest law positions, one of the first such programs in the nation. A few years later, as a young Legal Aid lawyer in 1987, I penned an op-ed piece for the New York Law Journal decrying the burgeoning debt crisis for law school graduates who wanted to do public interest work.
Since then, tuition levels have continued their meteoric rise, and the student debt situation has only worsened. The smattering of university-sponsored loan forgiveness programs have proven inadequate to address the crisis. In recent years, the federal government has entered the picture with loan repayment relief programs, but far from sufficiently.
Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012
To address the situation, U.S. Rep. Hansen Clark of Michigan recently introduced the Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012, which limits student loan repayment amounts to 10 percent of discretionary income, caps student loan interest rates at 3.4 percent, and allows for forgiveness of student loans for graduates in public service positions.
Its immediate chances of passage are fair-to-middlin’ at best, but it’s definitely a rallying point for students and other advocates.
Americans for Democratic Action resolution
Pursuant to this opportunity, in my role as chair of Americans for Democratic Action, a Washington D.C.-based public policy advocacy group, I submitted to the board of directors this resolution in support of federal loan forgiveness legislation. We approved the resolution at our board meeting today:
Resolution on Student Loan and Debt Relief Legislation
Submitted by David Yamada, Chair, ADA National Executive Committee
1. Rising student loan debt, student loan payment default rates, and unemployment rates for college, graduate school, and professional school degree holders have created a crisis facing young people. For example, according to recent reports by the Project on Student Loan Debt (http://projectonstudentdebt.org/):
- “Two-thirds of college seniors graduated with loans in 2010, and they carried an average of $25,250 in debt. They also faced the highest unemployment rate for young college graduates in recent history at 9.1%.”
- “New data released by the U.S. Department of Education shows a sharp increase in the rate at which student loan borrowers are defaulting. The official ‘two-year cohort default rates’ show that 8.8 percent of student loan borrowers who entered repayment in 2009 had defaulted by the end of 2010, up from 7 percent for those entering repayment in 2008.”
2. Reducing student loan debt potentially frees up hundreds of billions of dollars that can be directed into our economy in more productive and constructive ways, including consumer goods, housing purchases, retirement savings, and charitable giving.
3. Access to higher education and bolstering America’s families have been longstanding policy priorities for ADA, including its Working Families Win project.
4. The Occupy protests have highlighted deepening public concern over student indebtedness and the individual and family burdens of paying for higher education.
5. Proposed legislation in the form of the Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012 (Rep. Hansen Clarke, D-Michigan, lead sponsor) limits student loan repayment amounts to 10 percent of discretionary income, caps student loan interest rates at 3.4 percent, and allows for forgiveness of student loans for graduates in public service positions.
Be It Resolved:
Americans for Democratic Action strongly endorses legislative initiatives such as the Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012 that cap student loan interest rates, minimize student loan repayments, and forgive student loan debt.