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US Senator Elizabeth Warren confronts student debt at BU

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren addressed the Boston University community Wednesday as part of the Initiative on Cities Speaker Series to address challenges students face with large loans and college affordability.

“Tying students to a lifetime of financial servitude as a condition of getting an education does not reflect our values,” Warren said. “You are working hard and learning new skills that will benefit you, that will benefit your family and that will also benefit this country. You will help us build a stronger America because you are getting an education, and the role of the federal government should be to help you in that process, not to make it harder.”

At the School of Management, Warren advocated a three-part proposal to reinstate bankruptcy protection on student loans, refinance those loans and end the practice of profiting from students.

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren spoke with Boston University students and faculty Monday afternoon in the School of Management about the challenge of student loans and the affordability of college as part of the Initiative on Cities Speaker Series. PHOTO BY FALON MORAN/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren spoke with Boston University students and faculty Monday afternoon in the School of Management about the challenge of student loans and the affordability of college as part of the Initiative on Cities Speaker Series. PHOTO BY FALON MORAN/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

“With the rising cost of college, more and more students are taking on more and more debt in order to get an education,” Warren said. “This is a common sense proposal and it should not be controversial.”

Marc Orlandella, a College of Arts and Sciences senior, said Warren’s speech helped him better understand the challenges that accompany college loans.

“It’s tough to get the connection, or to have a starting point to even know where to begin on these issues,” he said. “When you have someone out there in the public eye saying ‘I want to help students, I want to decrease the loans, I want to help with tuition,’ it’s nice because it shows us that we can fight for this and we should.”

Liana Lamattina, a senior in the School of Management, said although she hoped to see more detailed strategies about how Warren planned to implement her proposal, she appreciated the plan Warren outlined.

“Seeing such a high ranking politician stand in front of a crowd of students and want to communicate and exchange ideas and discussion, something like that is rare,” Lamattina said. “It shows a genuine side to her and shows that she is willing to collaborate.”

College of Communication junior Jennifer Janiak said financial aid should not be limited to only low-income families.

“There’s not enough financial aid available for everyone that needs it,” she said. “There are a lot of great programs that help people from [the] lower class or who have outstanding merit achievements get a lot of financial aid, but there’s not a lot for those who are middle class.”

Warren said in order to ease excessive borrowing, the cost of college tuition should be decreased.

“The amount of debt we all have to take out is extraordinary,” Janiak said. “As someone who is taking on so much debt, it’s hard for me to think about buying a house or a car or paying rent when I’m going to have such exorbitant monthly payments.”

Warren said refinancing old loans would lower interest rates from approximately 8 percent to 3.86 percent on undergraduate student loans. For a recent undergraduate, payments would drop by as much as $1,000 per year, nearly cutting total interest in half, she said.

The federal government, which will profit $66 million from student loans this year, should ensure those profits go back to the education system, Warren said.

“I grew up in an America that was investing in young people who were trying to get an education. I believe in that America,” she said. “We need to align our values with our spending, and that means we need to make sure that young people who are trying to get an education [can do so] without getting crushed by student loan debt.”

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