Don’t politicize student debt

Lawmakers can’t let politics get in the way of progress on loan debt.

Last week marked an important step for college students with burdensome loans: President Barack Obama signed an executive order to ease the debt burden for student borrowers. Local politicians have also had students on their minds, as Sen. Al Franken recently threw his support behind a student loan bill introduced last month by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

Warren’s bill would allow those with outstanding student loan debt to refinance their public and private student loans at the lower interest rates currently offered to new borrowers.

However, the Senate voted last week to block Warren’s bill. Republicans claimed the bill was a “political stunt” to distract constituents from a bill on veterans’ health care. Democrats argued that the bill was a choice between helping students and helping the rich.

The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter whether it was a political stunt or that the bill comes down to an ultimatum between the rich and students. The current state of Congress has turned the issue of student loan debt into a polarized, politicized and dehumanized debate.

Despite attempts to lower the crushing rates of student loan debt, the amount of outstanding debt rose to about $1.1 trillion last year. That amount of debt is only second to mortgage debt owed.

Politicians need to start addressing the issue from a realistic perspective, rather than a partisan one. Less than half of millennials have started saving for retirement, and more than 80 percent of those who haven’t saved say they can’t because of loan debt.

When our generation can’t feasibly get out of loan debt, lawmakers can’t reduce this issue to mudslinging. It’s time to seriously tackle the issue — politics aside.