77°
UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Sen. Elizabeth Warren Pleads for Affordable College Education

Senator+Elizabeth+Warren
Senator Elizabeth Warren

On April 2, Sen. Elizabeth Warren spoke in the University of Massachusetts Boston Campus Center Ballroom, where she talked about the need to have affordable colleges and her willingness to fight against increasing students loans fees. “We are going to make change in Washington, we’re just going to have to do it together,” said Sen. Warren in her opening statements.
Elizabeth Warren shared accounts of overcoming the challenges of growing up in a working class family, and how they were able to send her to college regardless of that status. Her personal path of education and humble beginnings as a daughter of a janitor is further proof of the power of a degree. As she states, “a college degree has been a ticket to the middle class.” The American Dream has become a monopoly as access to education becomes increasingly strenuous on the working class due to the rising costs.
Tuition costs now are around 300 percent higher than they were 30 years ago, according to Warren. This statistic is born from a lack of support for public college. The responsibility for covering the costs of higher education used to belong mainly to the state, but the state has gone from paying 80 percent of college tuition for students to only 50 percent.
Sen. Warren pointed out the broken nature of a system where the costs of education rise while the available grant money decreases. Congress is seeking to cut the Pell Grant by approximately 30 percent, despite the 8 million students that depend on it. Republicans defend the proposed cut to the grant because they believe that the Pell Grant is too lenient and allows colleges to increase their tuition; Warren, however, argues that the increase in tuition is because the Pell Grant hasn’t been able to keep up. One of the ways Warren proposes to solve this issue is to make the grant available year-round, which would accommodate non-traditional students with families or jobs while they matriculate—much like many students right here at UMass Boston.
Elizabeth Warren believes that the debt that students will live with for decades prevents them from being able to buy homes and cars, which would aid in stimulating the economy. It is not just about how student loans affect the students directly, but the businesses that suffer from a lack of spending. Furthermore, living with this kind of debt prevents students from feeling their economic standing is stable enough to marry or have children, which will affect the next generation as well. Warren articulates the balance between the degree and debt as it weighs on a generation: “Degrees push us forward, but debt holds us back.”
At the event, there were panels consisting of students and families who face the weight of the reality of student loans—the reality of working multiple jobs, mortgaging homes, and most unfortunately, facing the reality of giving up on their passions because they can’t afford them. This structure punishes the teachers and the guidance counselors—positions that require costly educations and don’t necessarily promise good salaries.
Congress is in position to make a profit of $66 billion off of student loans due to egregiously high interest rates. Warren’s stance on the matter of interest on student loans would be to ultimately decrease them to the rates that the top one percent of society receive, because as it stands, Sen. Warren says, there is “fat profit off the backs of kids. This is obscene and it needs to stop.” It is the combination of high interest, rising costs in tuition, and lack of funding for grants that has culminated into the crisis of a generation that harbors trillions in debt from student loans. There are graduates with degrees, debt, and expectations of the promise of a job to pay back those loans.
 There were echoes of “we can do better” from all of the speakers—Sen. Warren’s solution is to create awareness and call for action; she says, “The only way we change that is if we use our voices and if we use ’em strong … We must make change and it starts right here. Right now.” For anyone with student debt or anyone looking to take part in the changes Elizabeth Warren has set out to achieve, go to Bankonstudentsbill.com to sign up for their mailing list or to sign their petition. Be a part of the change.