For the first time in our nation’s history, the total amount of student loan debt has exceeded the total amount of credit card debt. This very real problem weighs heavily on New Mexico families.
Last year, Congress narrowly stopped a student loan interest rate hike from going into effect. As a result, undergraduate students borrowing this year are able to take advantage of historically low rates. But students who borrowed before this agreement could be paying rates as high as nine percent.
Those who pursued an education to get ahead are starting out behind.
Student loan debt is proving to be a debilitating impediment to achieving the American dream. Recently, I met a working mother in southern New Mexico who told me about her family’s struggle to raise their children while paying her husband’s student loans for a degree he earned more than two decades ago.
Another woman shared her story of going back to school to become a teacher. She is a single mother who wanted to make a better life for her daughter.
She got her degree, but not without acquiring more than $40,000 in student loan debt. She worries that she will be paying her loans well into retirement. And as a parent, she worries for her daughter who will be entering college, and fears she has no choice but to take out loans to pay for her education.
Unfortunately, these stories are all too common. Outstanding student loan debt in America totals more than $1.2 trillion. In New Mexico, students are graduating with an average of nearly $18,000 in debt.
Outstanding balances not only affect families working to pay those loans – it affects the economy as a whole. Because of this debt, many are unable to buy a home, start a business, save for retirement, or even start a family.
In today’s economy, we should be eliminating the obstacles that keep Americans from earning the education needed to get ahead. College should not be a luxury; it should be an opportunity all Americans can afford.
This week, I voted for legislation that helps address the problem of skyrocketing student loan debt. The Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act is a proposal that allows those with outstanding student loan debt to refinance their private and federal student loans at the lower interest rates currently offered to new borrowers. Allowing graduates to refinance would put more money in their pockets and strengthen our economy as a whole.
However, Senate Republicans decided to filibuster the bill. They do not seem to understand that crushing student loan debt is a serious issue that forces many Americans to put their dreams on hold. Higher education is one of the most important investments a person can make for their future and everyone should have the opportunity to afford it. Republicans know this and even recently helped do something about it.
Just last year, Democrats and Republicans in Congress came together to prevent a student loan interest rate hike. This was great money-saving news for students taking out new loans; however there are still approximately 134,000 New Mexicans who would benefit from passing the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act.
We had an opportunity to come together to address skyrocketing student loan debt, and instead Republicans in the Senate chose to leave families, students, and the economy behind.
A college education opens the doors of opportunity and provides an avenue into the middle class for our families. College graduates are nearly twice as likely to find work as those with only a high school diploma, and they will earn $1 million more in their lifetime.
To strengthen our nation’s economy and give Americans a fair shot, it is imperative we relieve the financial strain outstanding student debt puts on our families and put higher education within reach for all Americans.
Senate Republicans should reconsider their priorities and allow the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act to move forward so we can provide immediate relief to student loan borrowers and strengthen our economy.