Q&A: Elizabeth Warren on Spiraling Student Debt and What Should Be Done About It

ProPublica Staff

Washington, DC, United States (ProPublica) – by Marian Wang

This story was co-published with Marie Claire.

Elizabeth Warren knows what education can do. Her new book, A Fighting Chance, tells of what it did for her – starting at age 16, when she secretly applied to college and persuaded her parents to let her go. After earning both a bachelor’s and a law degree, she immersed herself in bankruptcy law, which taught her how easily ordinary people can spiral into debt. Here, the Democratic U.S. senator from Massachusetts tells ProPublica why she’s decided to tackle the problem of student-loan debt, and what the government can – and should – do to help.

Q: Why have you taken on the issue of student debt?

A: The cost of college has gone through the roof. More and more young people have to finance through bigger and bigger student loans. They leave school and they’re trying to start a life, start a family, get a job – and they’re drowning in debt.

I want every person to have the kinds of opportunities I had. It’s personal. My parents struggled financially. My father ended up as a maintenance man, and my mother worked the phones at Sears. Education opened a thousand doors for me. I had loans, and I worked part-time, and it was enough to keep me going. But the big difference is that I went to school at a time when this country was investing in students.

Q: How big a problem are we talking about?

A: There’s $1.2 trillion outstanding in student loan debt. That’s more than credit card or car loans, more than any other kind of consumer debt except mortgages. It’s crushing people.

Q: It also has the highest delinquency rate of all types of consumer debt.

– Provided by ProPublica.org

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