As commencement season approaches, graduating students will soon hear words of wisdom from speakers offering experience, advice and inspiration. One thing they’re not likely to hear about is the $1.08 trillion elephant on the quad — our nation’s student debt crisis.
That is how much U.S. households are estimated to owe in student loans, twice as much as in 2007. In fact, student debt now exceeds credit card debt, putting millions of families at risk of bankruptcy. Forty percent of households headed by someone under the age of 35 that are saddled with student debt, unable to buy homes, raise families and secure their futures. This doesn’t just hold back individuals — it holds back our economic recovery. Meanwhile, Congress manufactures false debt crises instead of solving this very real one.
Enter Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat who intuitively understands the urgency and scale of the crisis. Indeed, Warren is not just a longtime student of bankruptcy in the United States, but someone who understands what it means for a family to be at risk of losing everything. As she writes in her new book, “A Fighting Chance,” the rules are such that a sudden event — divorce, illness, unemployment — can pull the rug out from under anyone. “A turn here, a turn there, and my life might have been very different, too,” she writes.
Warren first came to Washington to battle a system that has long been rigged against the middle class, where working families’ voices get overpowered by well-funded lobbyists who hold elected officials by the pocket. In a 2009 interview with Michael Moore, she said, “You can’t buy a toaster in America that has a one in five chance of exploding. But you can buy a mortgage that has a one in five chance of exploding, and they don’t even have to tell you about it . . . We have consumer protection for everything you touch, taste, smell, feel . . . But there is no equivalent for credit cards, for mortgages. There’s nothing.”