Bank On Students Loan Fairness Act: Will Student Debt Crush the GOP's Chances With Young Voters?

The real challenge for millennials in the U.S may be coming to grips with their poverty. With a good number of them being under- or unemployed, the prospects of them earning as much as the Baby Boomers is slim. The student loan crisis, coupled with other seismic changes, may ultimately determine the direction higher education may take in the decades to come, and also in the short term determine if the GOP is really in touch with the needs of millennials.

A typical undergrad in the U.S. is going to be graduating with an average of $27,000 in loans. The fact that student loans across the country are to the tune of $1 trillion and the interest rates are set to double come July 1 is a worrying fact indeed. To counter this, several groups of millennials have shown initiative. The Georgetown University Student government has joined forces with millennials and initiated a nation-wide campaign to garner support to stop this from happening. Nate Tisa and Adam Ramadan point out eloquently:

"The idea that future generations — and even our own peers — will be denied this opportunity because they lack the resources is disheartening. To accept that some Americans are unable to pursue the education they thirst for and need is to defer the American dream."

I couldn't agree with them more.

Additionally, the fact that several leading universities have endorsed Senator Elizabeth Warren's proposal is welcoming. Her "Bank on Students Loan Fairness Act," seeks to "prevent doubling of interest rates by providing funds for such loans through the Federal Reserve System, to ensure that such loans are available at interest rates that are equivalent to the interest rates at which the Federal Government provides loans to banks through the discount window operated by the Federal Reserve System, and for other purposes." This bill seems to be gaining momentum, though one needs to see how much traction it receives from Congress.

A recent book that I co-edited, Millennials Speak, has an essay dedicated to student loans. In it, Robert Thead, the co-editor, points out that college tuition increased by more than 400% since 1980. This increased borrowing, coupled with a lack of jobs in the market, is fueling the crisis that we are witnessing today. The solution, he points out, is to better educate the youngsters, even before they enter college about their career prospects and also the financial realities of the "real world." I also agree with Thead that the student loan crisis will have long-term impact in the United States in that these students may not be able to afford housing mortgages and in turn impact the housing market. Further, an entire generation is growing up to be risk-averse, which is a death-knell for a capitalist economy such as the U.S. Student loans should perhaps be branded as "education mortgages," and allowed some of the leniencies not accorded right now.

With bipartisanship all but dead, and congressional deadlock plaguing progress on most issues in the country, it remains to be seen if the GOP reacts positively to these requests from the millennials. Whether it responds favorably or not will determine whether they truly understand the interests of the affected youth. It may well be a reflection of how "in tune" they are with the needs of the millennials, too! 

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Sabith Khan

Sabith Khan is a social entrepreneur, researcher and founder of MENASA, a think-tank and policy shop engaged in issues related to MENA and South Asia. Sabith has worked for several years in the field of strategic communications, public affairs and nonprofit management, trying to understand and communicate issues pertaining to civil society, development and youth in the US and MENA region. Sabith has worked with several large global public affairs firms, on award-winning campaigns in healthcare, entertainment and government relations. During his stint at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, he ideated and executed a global award-winning campaign for Apollo Hospitals (Abby and Clio Awards). He has also worked in the Middle East managing accounts as diverse as Dubai Film Festival, Mohammed bin Rashid Foundation, Dubai International Film Festival, Dubai School of Government. Most recently, he served as the Executive Director of Muslim Public Service Network in Washington D.C, an NGO that engages and inspires young American Muslims to do public service. He is currently pursuing a PhD in Planning Governance and Globalization at Virginia Tech. He has been involved as a team member and leader in several international development projects including consulting for the Near East Foundation, in helping set up their Monitoring and Evaluation system for their offices across the MENA region. Sabith has a Master of Public administration and a Master of Arts in International Relations from the Maxwell School of Syracuse University. In Summer 2013, he conducted research on American Muslim philanthropy at the Lilly School of Philanthropy, Indianapolis, in an attempt to map giving behavior among Muslims over the last ten years i.e., 2002- 2012. Sabith’s research interests include Religion and Philanthropy, Youth issues in USA, Middle East North Africa and South Asia, Governance and Civil Society. Sabith is also the co-editor of Millennials Speak: Essays on the 21st century, a snapshot of the ideas and opinions of the global Millennial Generation. Twenty writers from five continents, a diverse mix of young academics, policy professionals, and future thought and creative leaders, cover topics from the legacy of the Arab Spring, the global food system, the U.S. student loan crisis, youth unemployment, to popular culture. Currently working: Founder and Executive Director, MENASA Publications: 1. Humanitarian Aid and Faith-Based Giving: The Potential of Muslim Charity - Unrest Magazine, George Mason University. May 2013. Accessible at http://www.unrestmag.com/about-unrest/past-issues/#sthash.GEqNfv0U.dpuf 2. Arab American Diaspora and American Muslim Philanthropy: impact of crisis situations on mobilization and formation of a “community.” American University in Cairo Press. Cairo. (NP). Expected Fall 2013. 3. Middle-East Peace Talks 2010: Investigating the Role of Lobbying and Advocacy Groups in Washington, D.C. as Spoilers. Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Spring 2011. Accessible at : http://www.maxwell.syr.edu/parcc/Research/intrastate/Spoilers_of_Peace_Project/ Blog: www.sabithkhan.wordpress.com

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