On Wednesday, September 14, U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) held a conference call with student staff members from college newspapers across the country. This was in order to discuss the current student loan debt crisis and spread awareness for Senate Bill 3681, also known as the In the Red Act of 2016. The three senators discussed the rising cost of college and how In the Red will address the major problems faced by student loan borrowers and then fielded questions from student journalists.
“Student loan debt is now $1.3 trillion and continues to grow,” Senator Warren opened the call. “For loans issued from 2007 to 2012, the federal loan program is on target to make $66 billion in profits. It’s numbers but it’s also people’s lives. This debt load is squeezing millions of young people and dragging down our economy.”
The aim of the In the Red Act, according to its official Senate title, is “to make college more affordable, reduce student debt and provide greater access to higher education for all students of the United States.” The bill is made up of multiple measures designed to reduce college expenses and make student loan debt less of a burden for both future and current students.
“The In the Red Act has a number of simple solutions,” said Senator Schatz. “First: reducing student debt burdens. Second: boosting Pell Grants. Third: providing two years of free community college and fourth: accountability for institutions of higher learning that receive subsidies from the federal government.”
Schatz went on to emphasize the fact that student debt affects not only the borrower but the family members who may find themselves responsible for the debt if their student defaults on loan payments. “Nobody escapes this. This is a key middle-class issue that affects all generations. It matters to students in college but it also matters to parents and grandparents,” Schatz said.
Senator Baldwin spoke next, “One of the things I’ve done to really get a sense of the extent of this problem in my home state of Wisconsin is to hold round tables with students and recent graduates at campuses across the state.” Baldwin visited Lawrence while on the campaign trail back in 2012 for a listening session with students. “I got to hear firsthand accounts of how college costs and student loan debt are holding back an entire generation.”
Baldwin, along with Schatz, Warren and 26 other co-sponsors of the bill, have struggled against opposition in the Senate since the introduction of In the Red to Congress in March of this year. The bill is currently under review by the Senate Committee on Finance where a decision will be made to determine whether the bill will continue on to the Senate floor or not.
In the meantime, Senator Warren urged students and families of students to get involved in the political process by voting in the upcoming election and contacting their congressional representatives. “We’re fighting to give hardworking young people a fighting chance to build a future for themselves and for our country,” Warren concluded, “but we cannot do this alone.”