Senator Elizabeth Warren Receives 240,000-Signature Petition Asking to Cancel All Student Debt

Posted By Eliana Osborn on May 21, 2015 at 11:34 am
Senator Elizabeth Warren Receives 240,000-Signature Petition Asking to Cancel All Student Debt

Senator Elizabeth Warren’s work on higher education costs made her the recent recipient of a petition from 240,000 students asking for full cancellation of their student loan debt. Warren has been involved in the national conversation about high college costs for some time, introducing or supporting many bills to help students manage their loans.

The petition asked the Senate and President to cancel all student loan debt, an idea that was introduced in January on the Campaign for America’s Future blog and on the Huffington Post. Authors Mary and Steven Swig, co-founders of the National Student Debt Jubilee Project, and Richard Eskow, wrote:

It is time for a comprehensive solution to a $1.3 trillion problem: student debt in the United States … We must also confront what has been done to the last several generations of students. They have been forced to take on debt that is crippling to them, to our economy and our society. A student debt “jubilee” would reflect both the values upon which this nation was founded, and the economic principles which have sustained it through its greatest periods of growth and prosperity. It is time for a truly transformative idea: Let’s Abolish All Student Loan Debt in America.

Petition signatures were gathered by twelve different groups working together as a coalition for “Higher Ed, Not Debt Week of Action.”  The group is focused on highlighting the staggering load of student debt in America: $1.3 trillion by the most recent numbers. Campaign for America’s Future, one participant, is a clearinghouse for a variety of progressive issues they believe will affect the next steps of our history. One factor that affects what jobs millennials take and how they innovate solutions to the world’s problems is their high levels of debt. Other organizations that back the Cancel All Student Debt petition include the American Federation of Teachers and Democracy for America.

Is student debt cancellation likely?

Many believe that campaigns to wipe out student debt are far-fetched and patently unfeasible. Compromises, such as more transparency about what each college will cost and more options for student loan repayment, have made more progress in Congress and within the higher education industry.  The National Education Association has created resources about college affordability, and helps students and parents get involved in measures to change the status quo.

Senator Warren and other Democrats introduced a bill in March to enable student loan debts to be refinanced at lower rates.  Such steps may seem small when considering the crisis of student debt, but lower monthly payments give new graduates and their families a better chance of paying off their loans without defaulting.

The overall goal of these reform movements is to simply make higher education more attainable for more people.  How to achieve that is still a work in progress, coming too late to help students who will graduate soon and head out into careers with loan payments weighing heavily on their minds.

Image: U.S. Department of Labor

Eliana Osborn
Eliana Osborn is an associate English professor at Arizona Western College, with degrees from Brigham Young University and Northern Arizona University. She’s published widely in forums such as The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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