Senate Majority Leader Schumer & Senator Warren Op-Ed: Forgiving Student Debt Will Help Senior Citizens, Too
“Older Americans shouldn’t have to limit daily meals so that they make a monthly payment. And they definitely shouldn’t have their hard-earned Social Security stripped from them.”
Washington, DC - Today, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) published an op-ed in CNBC on how cancelling up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt will help America’s older persons which include 6.3 million borrowers ages 50-64 and nearly a million borrowers over the age of 65 who may still be paying for a loved one’s education or for their own.
Read the full op-ed here. Key sections below.
CNBC: Forgiving student debt will help senior citizens, too
Opinion by Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer
January 22, 2021
The people elected two leaders — President Biden and Vice President Harris — who committed to boosting our economy by cancelling billions of dollars in student loan debt. That commitment affects more older Americans than you might think.
Right now, over 43 million people in the United States are buried under $1.5 trillion dollars in federal student loan debt, including 6.3 million borrowers ages 50-64 and nearly a million borrowers over the age of 65 who may still be paying for a loved one’s education or for their own. They’ve carried that burden while the rich have gotten richer in the midst of this pandemic.
The student debt burden for older Americans has grown at an alarming rate: According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), in 2004 adults aged 50 and older accounted for $47 billion of student loan debt, but by 2018, that figure had skyrocketed to $289.5 billion. In fact, student debt is one of the biggest contributors to the rise in the amount of debt seniors hold overall. And like the massive debt burden on younger Americans, trying to balance this mountain of student debt inevitably drags our seniors down too.
Every year, the federal government shoves tens of thousands of seniors into poverty or near-poverty by garnishing Social Security benefits to make up what is owed in student loan payments, undermining one of the nation’s most successful anti-poverty programs. In 2015, the federal government garnished the Social Security checks of almost 114,000 Americans.
This reduction in benefits is often not even enough to cover the ballooning interest payments, and the gains for the federal government are miniscule. In fact, more than 70% of garnished Social Security benefits were just going toward student loan fees and interest, and not paying down seniors’ principal balances, leaving many seniors with a reduced standard of living just to stay stuck in a cycle of inescapable debt.
Whether they took on student debt for themselves or for a loved one, in both situations, they were told that education is the ticket to the American dream, which would inevitably lead to a financially secure retirement. But, that’s not the case for 37% of Americans over the age of 65 who are in default on their student loans, according to AARP.
Bottom line: the federal government has turned its back on Americans young and old with student loan debt. The system failed them, and today, they’re drowning in debt when they should be experiencing retirement security in their golden years. The debt burden undermines the federal safety net programs – like Social Security – created so that Americans could remain financially secure.
No older person should have to make life-altering decisions between paying their student loan payment, putting food on the table, or keeping themselves and their families safe and healthy, especially during this public health crisis. Older Americans shouldn’t have to limit daily meals so that they make a monthly payment. And they definitely shouldn’t have their hard-earned Social Security stripped from them.
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris can cancel up to $50,000 in student loan debt for our seniors, and we hope you’ll join us in urging them to do so.
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