I’m an independent. Here’s what Republicans get wrong about the student debt crisis | Opinion

It is infuriating to see Republican leadership continually attempt to render the student debt crisis a partisan issue

Black borrowers hold a disproportionate share of student loan debt, and many likely were recipients of Pell Grants.

Student loan borrowers gather near The White House to tell President Biden to cancel student debt at a rally in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for We, The 45 Million)

By Lisa Ansell

Earlier this week, the Republican-controlled U.S. House voted to overturn President Joe Biden’s student loan relief plan and to nullify the freeze on federal student loan payments and interest, Politico reported.

As an independent voter, it is infuriating to see Republican leadership continually attempt to render the student debt crisis a partisan issue when one out of 5 adults in this country of all demographics and party affiliations, is burdened by crippling student loan debt.

Contrary to the lending industry backed narrative that dominates the mainstream media, over half of student debt borrowers are either Republican or independent and distressed borrowers over the age of 50 far outnumber borrowers under the age of 25.

In fact, the fastest growing demographic of distressed student loan borrowers are senior citizens who are getting their social security checks garnished over their student loan debt which has ballooned over decades due to usurious negative amortization and compounding interest.

Republican leadership leading the crusade against President Biden’s loan cancellation plan and the recent changes made to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program and Income Driven Repayment plan receive well-documented massive donations from the lending industry to perpetuate this highly predatory lending system.

For instance, U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., who is the chair of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, receives more money from the student loan and for-profit college industry than from any other sector .

In addition, the Congressional Review Act that was recently introduced by GOP U.S. Sens. Bill Cassidy, John Cornyn and Joni Ernst presents no logical solution to the close to $2 trillion crisis but rather falls back on stale tropes such as why should tax dollars be spent on student debt relief and not for the “man who skipped college but is paying off his work truck.

The reality is that unlike PPP loans, student debt cancellation would require zero dollars to be drawn from the treasury and will add nothing to the national debt. In fact, the vast majority of the $2 trillion student debt burden is comprised of usurious fees and compounded interest.

 If the GOP were serious about addressing the plague of student debt that has destroyed the lives and livelihoods of now four generations, they would fight to restore bankruptcy protections back to student loans.

Specifically, Cornyn co-authored the “Fresh Start Through Bankruptcy Act” last year in a bipartisan effort along with U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., but this bill never even made it to a vote in the Judiciary Committee.

For a party claiming to preserve the integrity of the Constitution, where is the outrage that the constitutional right to declare bankruptcy was uniquely stripped from student loan debt first in 1977 for federal student loans and then in 2005 for private student loans both in large part due to the current occupant of the White House?

The states of Louisiana, Texas, and Iowa where the three authors of the Congressional Review Act hail from, are all underwater in student loan debt where the citizens of these states owe more in student loan debt than their entire state budgets.

The sooner these representatives who were elected to champion for the material lives of their constituents realize that the root of the student debt crisis lies not in fighting Biden’s meager $10,000 to  $20,000 cancellation plan but rather in the lack of consumer protections for student debtors, the closer they will get to solving this crisis.

Lisa Ansell is the associate director of the Casden Institute at the University of Southern California/Dornsife.

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Capital-Star Guest Contributor
Capital-Star Guest Contributor

The Pennsylvania Capital-Star welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of widening the conversation on how politics and public policy affects the day-to-day lives of people across the commonwealth.