The first thing we need to do to get serious about student debt? Stop calling it "student debt."
"College debt" or "education debt" might work. Anything but student debt - because not just students but entire families are paying the cost of our broken system for funding higher education.
Case in point: The other day, one of the top stories on CNN.com was about two grieving parents who lost their child but are still stuck with her student loan bills.
This story represents so much about what is wrong with our system of financing higher education - not to mention our national priorities. Full story
(CNN) - If you took out a loan a few years ago to buy a flashy sports car, you could save buckets of money by refinancing at today's low rates.
But if you did the smart thing and took out federal student loans to pay for an education - sorry, you are out of luck! Federal student loans cannot be refinanced.
If that sounds insane to you, you will like the plan Sen. Elizabeth Warren unveiled in a speech recently at the Center for American Progress.
Last spring, Congress passed bipartisan legislation to lower student loan interest rates as of July 1, 2013. But they did little for people who already had borrowed at higher rates.
Say you took out a loan even a day earlier, on June 30. At that point, the congressionally mandated rate was 6.8%. You are locked into it. No matter what else Congress does to help new borrowers.
Unlike almost every other type of loan, federal student loans are set in stone even if rates change for the better. (There are private refinancing options but they have strict requirements and limited scope.) This might not constitute a crisis if college cost what it did in the 1970s. But with middle class wages flat for decades, the soaring cost of education has become a mammoth debt dilemma dragging down an entire generation.
Today, Americans hold an all-time record $1.3 trillion in student debt. It cannot be discharged by bankruptcy or even death. In some cases, Social Security benefits are being garnished to pay for a grandchild's debt if a grandparent co-signed. Parents are still paying off their own bills while contemplating putting their kids through college.
The solution is simple: Let Americans with federal student loans refinance to today's low rate. But the reason why Congress refuses to act may surprise you. FULL STORY