The Daily Illini

State lawmakers speak out against student debt

By Megan Jones

To kick off the Illinois Student Senate’s Student Debt Awareness Week, State Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-103, Student Senator Tony Fiorentino and Student Loan Justice founder Alan Collinge held a panel to discuss a problem many students face today: the United States’ loan system and its purported lack of consumer rights. 

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau reported that outstanding student loan debt in the United States stands between $902 billion and $1 trillion, and Fiorentino said it’s time for students to finally take control. In 2010 to 2011, about 57 percent of public four-year college students graduated with debt, borrowing an average of almost $24,000. 

“In the seven or eight years that I’ve been fighting this crisis, not one college, not Berkeley, not UCLA, not Harvard or Yale, has made any significant impact,” Collinge said. 

 He added that it is not possible to default on student loan debt, which could cause it to be a lifelong burden for some students. 

“This is the longest, worst monstrosity not only to people who borrow, but also to parents who have to pay out of pocket,” Collinge said. “This not only hurts poor people, it crushes them and it hurts moderately wealthy families who have to pay out of pocket as well.”

Jakobsson spoke about the resolution she submitted to the Illinois House of Representatives calling for bankruptcy protection for student loans, which would making Illinois the first state in the U.S. to propose this. She also proposed changing Illinois’ income tax to a fair tax system. 

“If this was to pass, most people in the state of Illinois would see their income tax go down,” Jakobsson said. “We are doing this because we have such an unfair taxing income in the state of Illinois. We would gain more state revenue, which would help many things such as higher education, kindergarten through high school education and social services.” 

Attendees were invited to sign a petition asking for a change to the income tax system after the panel. 

David Green, a resource and policy analyst at the Center for Prevention Research and Development, spoke about his upcoming campaign for Congress in 2014, which centers around how colleges should avoid becoming like corporations and should strive to make themselves universally available. He added that America’s gross domestic product has doubled since 1970 due to productivity, but the U.S. is not seeing the revenue due to unwise policy changes. 

Fiorentino called his peers to arms, encouraging them to make an impact and show their representatives that this is an issue. A rally will take place on Friday, Nov. 15, on the Quad to give students a chance to demonstrate how student debt impacts them.

Megan can be reached at [email protected]

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