Friday, November 2, 2012

Student Loans and the Candidates: Obama's Team Responds, Romney's Camp Remains Silent

Several months ago, I reached out to the Obama campaign team and the Romney campaign team to ask them several questions about the student lending crisis and higher education reform. Read to the end to see how the Romney team responded (spoiler alert: it's terribly disappointing). When I contacted Clo Ewing, a campaign spokeswoman, for the Obama campaign, she was at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. So, as you can imagine, she was, uh, pretty busy. Despite being swamped and involved in, Lord knows, millions of activities there, she provided me with answers in less than 24 hours.

She first made the point to say: "I think it is clear that the Democratic party, including the President, has acknowledged that there is a student lending crisis, and that young people (Millienials) are struggling to start families, buy homes, etc. at this juncture." Good answer (obviously). A lot has change since I asked Jim Messina, Campaign Manager for the Obama Campaign, questions about student loan debt in September of 2011. This exchange took place during a conference call with over 60 student leaders, including AEM. Messina took questions at the end of the conference chat. When asked how the President planned on solving the student lending crisis, and the fact that outstanding student loan debt was projected to hit $1 trillion by June of 2012, which it now has, Messina said, “That’s a good question. The Administration has worked hard to protect Pell Grants and also supports programs that make repayment easier.”   

Ewing's response illustrates a different tone, an actual recognition of the problem. 

I then asked her a few more questions:

CCJ: When it comes to student loan debt, do you think it will play a role in how younger voters who are educated and saddled with debt will vote?

CE: Yes, young people and their parents are going to vote for what is in their best interests and are going to vote for a President who understands the importance of making college more accessible and affordable.

CCJ: Do you think they are more inclined to vote for Pres. Obama or Mitt Romney?

CE: Young people and their parents are acutely aware of the President's commitment to making college more accessible and affordable. Young people will vote for President Obama in part because they recognize that he has doubled the number of Pell Grants and worked to ensure that graduates will not have to pay more than 10 percent of their salaries on they recognize that Mitt Romney's answer to struggling student is to "shop around" and that he support a budget that would slash student loans.

CCJ: If Romney were to win office, what would this mean for borrowers with student loan debt?

CE: Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have made very clear they are not committed to making college more accessible and affordable, which would likely mean fewer students would have access to higher education.

As I mentioned, I also asked these same questions when I communicated with Allie Brandenburger, Regional Press Secretary for the Romney Campaign. She wrote me a friendly note, told me that to send my questions along, and so I did just that. And then I waited for a response. Nothing happened. No one answered. And their convention, mind you, was long over. 



R Sullivan said...

I just love my doubled interest rate on my student loans, that will definitely make it easier to pay them off! Obama and his posse can fuck off.

Elizabeth said...

Sullivan, do you think Obama did that? Guess again. He's made it possible to expand loan forgiveness programs exponentially and limit payments to a reasonable 10%-15% of our discretionary income. No other president has ever done as much to help those of us crushed under student loans. If you truly saw your interest rate double, I suggest you contact the federal student loan ombudsman office with detailed info.

Anonymous said...

Spare me. Both sides are a part of the problem. If the Dems really cared about solving this crisis, they would have made the necessary changes in 2009 when they have control of the House and Senate...said necessary changes such as the restoration of basic consumer protections like BANKRUPTCY.

Furthermore, people seem to forget that IBR originated during the Bush years. Whether or not the Romney campaign responded to you is hardly indicative of his guilt or innocence in the matter. Neither side cares about this issue. The Romney campaign just proves it by blowing you off.

A change from 15% to 10% of discretionary income is an insult when student loans are so predatory in nature. Additionally, the change to 10% only helps recent borrowers, not the vast majority of those paying off one trillion dollars of debt. We are fucked. The Obama campaign has only proven that they are adept at vote they try to get the 18-22 year olds to vote for their guy by offering 10% monthly payments for 20 years.

Higher education in this country is a scam. The politicians choose to ignore it and to use it as weapon to get themselves elected.

Anonymous said...

I am growing ever so tired of this praise for IBR (not that anyone here is praising it). I don't understand why people do not see how very dangerous it is. Do people realize that their balances increase during the duration of the program and when they're forgiven, the student then owes taxes on the final amount? Are people not aware that this could be in the amount of tens of thousands of dollars? This is transferring student debt from the Department of Education to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Does anyone know what happens when you owe the IRS and you can't pay? PRISON! I feel like I need to spread the word about this. People, BEWARE!

Anonymous said...

My student loans are killing me. I am so deep in debt. The only way I can service is to service men. And recently I have started doing just that by getting on my knees and getting paid for it.

Cryn Johannsen said...

@Anonymous Nov 3rd 11:19 PM -

Would you be willing to share your story with me? I am sorry that you have had to turn to these sorts of services to pay your student loans.

Feel free to reach out -

Founder & Exec Dir.
All Education Matters

Anonymous said...

"I think it is clear that the Democratic party, including the President, has acknowledged that there is a student lending crisis, and that young people (Millienials) are struggling to start families, buy homes, etc. at this juncture."

Sadly, it is more than just about millienials. There are people who are far older who STILL have not been able to buy homes (and probably never will), start families (even though I disagree somewhat with this, mainly because I have sisters who are dirt poor and have a butt-ton of kids with the sleaziest guys and show no signs of stopping).

It annoys me to no end that this issue keeps getting shoved on the back burner. In a couple of decades, when IBR is forgiving loans and these people are all owing tax money or facing charges, there is going to be a disaster on their (somebodies) hands. There are many people out there like me who know that IBR is pretty much our ONLY hope at this point.

Cryn Johannsen said...

@Terrified Law Student - thanks for sharing. To be clear, I have been arguing for 3 years that the student lending crisis is an inter-generational problem. This piece just happened to focus on Millennials, a group that is also marginalized.

Founder & Exec Dir.
All Education Matters