Cheyenne Dorsagno, Copy Editor
Senator Chuck Schumer has a reputation for focusing on local issues and being extremely friendly with the press. Having grown up in Brooklyn, he’s been visiting every one of New York’s 62 counties each year for the past 16 years. In a phone conference on February 11, he personally talked to numerous college students about their impending debt.
He reflected on how conditions have changed since he was a student at Harvard. He said that states across the country are providing less assistance to their universities while the number of applicants increase; student loan debt has doubled since 2007. He recalled one woman’s “horrible testament,” in which she said that, at her age, her parents could afford a house, medical care, and college tuition while she cannot.
“College should create a lifetime of opportunities, not a life sentence of debt and financial strain,” he stated.
Schumer expressed how upsetting it is to know that New York students will face an average of $28,000 in debt after college. Undoubtedly, this prospect has scared some people out of getting an education. Many have had to change their plans – what job they will have, when they will get married, where they will live, and more.
“Some college education is practically a prerequisite for a good paying, entry level job and, over time, a stable prosperous lifestyle,” he commented. “A college education is becoming a necessity, but it’s priced like a luxury.”
In America, student loans have passed the one trillion-dollar mark, higher than that of credit card and auto debt. Schumer commented that the problem is often discussed with no results; he compared America’s approach to that of other countries, such as Germany, that actively work to make college more affordable. Federal governments that highly prioritize education have citizens with a lower unemployment rate and a higher average income.
Schumer’s objective is for future students to graduate debt-free. He said it is an attainable goal and may be a checkpoint on the way to Bernie Sanders’ “worthy cause” of tuition-free colleges.
Schumer explained how he will accomplish this goal by outlining his bill, the Reducing Education Debt Act (RED Act). This bill would accomplish three things that would significantly reduce student debt.
First, a student or recent graduate would be relieved of thousands of dollars of debt if they could refinance their loans at lower interest rates. Interest on student loans is six to nine percent while the federal government charges big banks less than three percent.
“How dare they charge students so much. Federal government should not be making a profit off of the backs of our students who are our future,” the senator remarked.
Second, the first two years of community college tuition would be free. That way, students could get an Associate’s degree and then more comfortably pursue a higher education.
Third, Pell Grants would be made to keep up with the rising cost of college by taking the consumer price index into consideration. “Pell Grants are critical to moderate- and low-income students,” said Schumer.
The senator is also working on a plan to stop colleges from increasing tuition to cancel out the increasing aid. Looking back on his time at Harvard, Schumer knows what an important, memorable experience that college can be. This was when he first became interested in politics and used his voice as part of the anti-war campaign.
Similarly, he is encouraging students to work with him on this issue with #InTheRed. The phrase reflects the RED Act and also being “in the red,” or in a crippling state of debt. By tweeting, posting, petitioning, and writing to other senators, students can support the campaign. According to Schumer, this is especially important for swaying Republicans, who more largely oppose this movement.
The senator explained that high school didn’t exist in early the 1900s, and it was once just a goal to have it free and available for all children. This, in part, made America one of the most productive, wealthy countries in the world. That same demand and motivation, if applied to higher education, could become an accomplishment that further uplifts this country.
“The voices of young Americans can change things,” stated Schumer.