In 2012, 70 percent of students who graduated from a four-year college in Minnesota had an average $31,497 in student loan debt.
Those unbelievably high numbers, in terms of both borrowers and outstanding balance, aren’t just affecting the people who need to pay off their loans. An editorial by the Star Tribune pointed out that the staggering $1.2 trillion owed in student loan debt has an immediate effect on the entire economy: young people will spend $83 billion this year paying off student loans–$83 billion that will not go into other areas of the economy, such as the housing market.
Because this problem isn’t going away anytime soon, politicians have begun trying to tackle the behemoth amount of debt. Our own Senator Al Franken co-sponsored a bill earlier this year that would change the current 4.6 percent interest rate on federal student loans to 3.86 percent. That bill, however, was short four votes in the Senate to break a Republican filibuster.
Minnesota’s legislative leaders are also concerned about our massive student loan debt. House Speaker Paul Thissen pitched an idea to reduce the amount of debt that many of Minnesota’s college graduates face: partial loan forgiveness. The Star Tribune explained the Speaker’s proposal:
[Thissen’s] idea…would write down debt amounts of up to $3,000 per year for grads in two categories — those who take jobs in “vital fields” in Greater Minnesota, and those who spend a year in community service through ServeMinnesota, the state’s AmeriCorps program.
This plan could help ease the shortage of high-tech workers available in Greater Minnesota by giving those workers incentive to find jobs where they might otherwise not look.
Although Thissen’s plan is still in its beginning stages, it’s ideas like this that our leaders need to keep producing. We need to trust that the people we elect to represent us have our best interest in mind, and the student loan debt crisis exists as a perfect opportunity to watch how our elected officials react.
Sen. Franken, Speaker Thissen and other progressive leaders continue to show us that they’re not going to stop tackling the student debt crisis.
It’s their persistence, along with our public support, that will begin to eat away at the trillions of dollars that so many people find themselves burdened by.