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Get Serious About Student Loan Debt

(This article about the Student Loan Debt was written by Melissa Staudinger, an Associate in our office at Lord & Associates. It was published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune on Tuesday, November 2, 2015.

Counterpoint: Don't be so dismissive of young people's frustration with student loans


Interest rates really are too high, and job prospects really are too low. This ought to be a top priority on the campaign agenda, but somehow its barely mentioned.

By Melissa Staudinger

November 2, 2015 7:49pm

Rick Nease Detroit Free Press/TNSRick Nease/Detroit Free Press/TNS

While I partly agree with Charlie Glassers assertion that student irresponsibility and lack of understanding (Math on student debt doesnt add up, Oct. 29) are the crux that led to the insane amount of students and young professionals in financial debtors prison, I wholly agree with Bill Boegemans call for political action regarding this economic weapon of mass destruction (Interest rates keep borrowers in the hole, Oct. 26).

The student debt crisis is best described as an afterthought, given its lack of presence in political debates so far from both parties. It hardly has been mentioned or questioned by the moderators, and when it is brought up, candidates have responded in generalities.

Student loan debt in the U.S. broke the trillion-dollar mark over three years ago (http://tinyurl.com/2fegw9d), and relief is still nowhere in sight. There has been op-ed upon op-ed surrounding this financial crisis with the same or similar blame strategies and causal theories about interest rates, the cost of education, unethical financial institutions, minuscule employment rates (and salaries), inflation, inadequate financial aid instruction, and now lack of responsibility and understanding, to name a few.

All of these issues must be addressed, and all must be a priority on every politicians agenda if were ever going to see students and young professionals back to fueling the economy by actually having cash to spend in the marketplace instead of living paycheck to paycheck due largely to student loan debt.

Yes, interest rates are at asinine levels. (In case youre wondering, Mr. Glasser, the interest rate on my GradPlus loan of $151,755 is 7.9 percent; while my Stafford loan of $71,519 is 6.8 percent I accrued megabucks in interest alone last year due to the fact that employers simply are either: a) not hiring, or b) not able to pay new professionals or graduates enough for them to make monthly loan payments.)

Yes, the cost of education is unaffordable. Yes, employee salaries are nowhere near enough for most to afford monthly loan payments and still get by with todays cost of living. But to shift the blame on lack of understanding and irresponsibility of students is not productive. (How many 18- to 30-year-olds have a basic understanding of interest rates, borrowing, lending and the repercussions of default when it comes to funding education?

Educated or not, the financial-aid business is confusing for anyone to understand.) The cost of education and the ridiculous amount of interest on student loans should not be a deterrent for kids to get a higher education. Period.

While pinpointing the sources causing such economic distress is not altogether fruitless and incredibly easy to complain about, we need to shift our focus to finding solutions and encourage our nations leaders to bring it to the table. To date, none of the candidates have expressed a realistic plan to help current and future students, nor do they have specific strategies to unbury recent grads and young professionals from this widespread economic grave.

Ben Carson calls for Pell Grant funding and encourages students to work; however, he calls on schools to pay the loan interest for their students. Hillary Clinton wants free tuition for community colleges and proposes federal grants that assist students in public colleges to attend via wage-based contribution while decreasing interest rates for the graduates who are already indebted. Donald Trump has yet to publicize a plan but has advocated that education is one of the only things the government should not be making money off. Bernie Sanders wants free higher education by using state, federal and institutional assistance to cover tuition and cost of living for students and increase federal work-study programs.

This is all great, but we need more. And as a generation that, Marco Rubio has said, could be worse off than the generation before it, we deserve more from our political leaders. This crisis needs to be more of a commanding presence in all of the politicians agendas. The issues surrounding this financial disaster are vast, and a solution for relief from this nationwide burden is going to take more than simple generalities.

Melissa Staudinger is a first-year associate attorney at Lord & Associates Law Office in Minneapolis.

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