Supporting student loan forgiveness legislation

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

March 2012


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 (

  • “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.

3 responses

  1. It is time to do the right thing. One point to make is it is not only in the young peoples behalf, but should include the seniors and the disabled

  2. I have been disabled since 1998. I have filed the proper forms for relief from my student loan debt. However, they keep sending it back. Now, they have destroyed my credit, and they tell me that, as soon as I apply for Social Security, they will garnish my payments. I have had no insurance all these years. Many years when I was working, I paid in all of my Social Security by September. I am now 60 years old with no insurance. I was also denied disability due to mistakes my attorney made at my hearing. So, I believe that there are others who need relief as much as I do. I really wonder how well this bill would work. After all, they don’t honor the forms that I have submitted over the years to have forgiveness of my student loan. If they will not do it now, why would they do it later?

  3. I was in school until last year. Stress at work got the best of me and I dropped 2 classes short of my Associates Degree. I was in school because I don’t make enough money and certainly not enough to save for retirement. I don’t want to continue to be part of the “student loan crisis”. I plan on paying every dime back. I want others to be able to get loans for school. My goal is to get “caught up” then finish my courses for my Associates Degree. After completion of my Associates Degree, I will change schools for the rest of my education.

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