Warren: Govt. must help students by cutting ed. costs
BOSTON — U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said Saturday that the nation’s “colleges are in crisis,” crippled by rising tuition and overwhelming student loan debt.
Warren, speaking to education reporters at Northeastern University, said that the federal government needs to intervene now by allocating money to pubic higher education schools and reforming the nation’s student loan program. She serves on a Senate committee that tackles education issues.
She said the $1.2 trillion in student loan debt is not just a threat to students, but to the nation’s economy, because it sometimes delays people from starting a family or buying a home. Unlike other types of borrowing practices, bankruptcy doesn’t erase student loans, she said.
States have slashed their funding to public higher education schools in recent years (Warren cited an average per-student spending decrease of 23 percent) — a trend she said the federal government can help reverse.
In the same way the government partnered with states to create the Interstate Highway System, Congress could provide matching funds to states that better fund their public schools, said Warren.
“Sure, there are complications about how different states and different schools can meet their goals,” she said. “There are complications on how to build roads through mountains and across deserts, but we’ve managed to solve those problems.”
Congress could also provide financial incentives for schools that work with students to keep their debts low, she said.
Warren again called for a refinancing of the nation’s student loan program, including eliminating any profit the government makes on student borrowing. The loans should help students, not tax them for going to school, she said.
And she said that interest rates must be lower. Earlier this year, she opposed a student loan law that tied interest rates to the economy.
Warren, who seemed optimistic that her plans could get congressional approval, said these issues need to be among America’s top priorities.
Earlier this year, President Barack Obama proposed creating a value rating system for colleges and using that to determine the amount of financial aid schools receive.
On Saturday, Warren first said she wasn’t yet sold on the plan because she did not know exactly what would be rated. Then, she stepped back slightly, to applaud Obama on starting a conversation about rising costs of higher education.
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