First to speak was Clinton, a St. Paul College senior with a burdensome debt load. Clinton spent one semester at Luther College, where he racked up $18,000 in student debt. After dealing with addiction, Clinton decided to continue pursuing his education and come to St. Paul College. Homeless at the time, Clinton had no job and no way to pay for school except through grants and loans.
After five semesters at St. Paul College, Clinton is $32,000 in debt, and will begin pursuing another degree in the fall.
“This is an astronomical figure, and it is not uncommon,” Clinton said.
We also heard from Molly, a St. Paul Harding High School social studies teacher, who is also burdened by debt. She said she often thinks about winning the lottery, dreaming about paying off her student loan debt. Molly said:
The consumer and student debt my family is carrying is a burden we cannot get out from under. …My spouse and I have – and have had – about $60,000 in student loan debt for the last 10 years. The number really hasn’t changed. Even our monthly payments can’t get at the principal balance, so we’ve resigned ourselves to paying these loans forever.
We also heard from legislators Melissa Hortman, Jon Applebaum, and Kevin Dahle.
“People like Clinton and Molly, we want them to be buying houses, having children, putting their children in daycare, and with these high student debt payments, it really slows down their ability to move on with their life, and that has a big impact on Minnesota’s economy,” said State Rep. Melissa Hortman.
Rep. Applebaum touched on the real impact student debt has on multiple generations.
“There is no issue I hear more about than the student loan debt burden that is placed not just on students but their families. We have a student loan debt crisis in Minnesota.”
Sen. Dahle related his own experience as a social studies teacher to Molly’s.
“There was a time in this state, in this country, when college was affordable. As a social studies teacher now, I think about the students that are asking me for letters of recommendation who have great dreams about an occupation and a job and making a living beyond high school and college and yet they fear they may not be able to pay for it.”
These stories about the crushing weight of student loans make it clear that policy ideas are needed to alleviate the stress of student debt.