Student loan debt is one of the most talked about issues among people from just about every walk of life. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has championed the cause of making college more affordable by tackling student loan interest rates, only to be blocked at every turn by the Republicans and the banks who own them. Congress has stymied a bill that would allow our children to get an education at the same interest rate big banks get when they need to borrow, 0.75 percent, in favor of a bill allowing banks to raise rates to over 10 percent instead.
If you’re a student in this country, how you’ll repay your loans factors into whether or not you can even afford to go to college. Students ready to graduate face the stress of finding a job that will allow them to repay their debts and still be able to break out of poverty in a market of fierce competition. Parents who co-sign or take the burden on themselves face second and third mortgages and loans that will take decades to pay back.
Imagine you already have these issues and then you are stricken with a debilitating illness or an injury that leaves you totally disabled. If you’re unaware of your rights as a disabled person to have your loans forgiven, you face the prospect of having your disability benefits, bank accounts and tax returns taken away from you.
Help has been available for years, but since the White House began a push four years ago to make sure disabled people are free from their government-insured loans, few have taken advantage of the program that allows them to use their Social Security designation to prove their disability. The Department of Education has now been tasked to seek out people who qualify, meaning a huge chunk of the population smothering under student loan debt with no way to pay it back will get some much-needed relief.
The first review yielded 387,000 names, with 179,000 already in default. All told the program is looking like it will provide $7.7 billion in relief:
Too many eligible borrowers were falling through the cracks, unaware they were eligible for relief,” said Education Under Secretary Ted Mitchell in a statement. “Americans with disabilities have a right to student loan relief. And we need to make it easier, not harder, for them to receive the benefits they are due.
What a novel idea. Improving the quality of life of people with disabilities may not be important to conservatives and their elected officials who think “disabled” means “lazy,” but for those of us with a heart and a conscience, it’s imperative that we evolve as a society and take care of our own. Kudos to President Obama and his education department for making this possible.
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