Senator Durbin, from Illinois, has co-sponsored and written a bill that would allow students who declare bankruptcy to get rid of their student debt. At the moment, student debt is the only debt that cannot be erased by filing bankruptcy. Durbin’s bill would also add legal protections for students or what Durbin describes as a student-loans “bill of rights.” The bill would require universities and lenders to share certain information such as the student’s eligibility for lost-cost government loans, or the terms of how the loan must be repaid to the student that is taking out a loan.
Senator Warren, an expert on bankruptcy law as a former professor at Harvard, has also written her own bill which would make it easier for students to refinance their student loans at a lower rate in order to make paying off loans easier without the fees that come with the inability to make a payment.
Senator Reed introduced a third bill that would place fines on colleges when more than 25 percent of students the college take out loans, and more than 15 percent default on those loans. The proposed legislation would provide an incentive for colleges to steer students towards low-cost government loans. The money collected from the fines would be used to fund government loans and financial aid programs. The fines will mostly target for-profit universities and colleges that cause students to get costly loans in order to get a degree that won’t guarantee a high-paying job.
The three senators, each with their own separate bills, have created a united campaign to help stop the growing debt on students. Despite having growing support from fellow Democrats, the three bills have yet to see any bi-partisan support from Republican Senators.
I applaud these senators for their noble attempt, but these bills are worthless because they do not address the real problem.
Back when Occupy started, many of us who have taken part in the movement were criticized of not having a “real solutions” or a clear goal, but the truth is that the solution wasn’t as easy as a few pieces of legislation; it was rather a change to the whole entire system. Occupy wasn’t about the 99% destroying the 1% because even if we did, the current system would allow the cycle to repeat itself and we would be stuck in the same situation in which we have a new 1% against the 99% and so on.
What Warren, who’s leading this initiative, should realize is that trying to fix one part of a broken engine will not make the engine run again, and sometimes the engine is so broken that it can’t be fixed and must be replaced. Warren and her colleague’s bills simply try to make student debt a little bit easier while attempting to work within the current system which either makes education a privilege or a sentence of a life-time’s worth of debt.
Our priority should be changing the way that we value education, not as a commodity, but as a universal right and a benefit to everyone. Instead of easing the burden of student debt, we should be creating a system in which student debt doesn’t exists, and that each human being has access to equal and quality education.
Occupy has given us a new perspective on how our economics, our politics, our communities, and the way that we live our lives should be. And if we want to start changing the system to benefit people, we need to take those values and start using them.
Don’t get me wrong, I applaud Warren’s attempt and I respect her, and I think that her heart is in the right place, but I think she fails to see that her and her colleague’s bills are not a solution, but rather an attempt to temporarily fix a broken part of a broken system.
Elizabeth Warren Photo by:Tim Pierce