There are many issues the person Gov. Brian Kemp chooses to fill U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s seat can take on. However, one of the most important and pivotal issues that needs to be tackled head-on is the federal student loan debt crisis. More than 1.7 million citizens of Georgia owe more than $53 billion to the federal government in student loan debt. Furthermore, this debt burden on Georgians is expected to increase at the rate of $3.8 billion per year in new loan debt and related interest.
The solution to relieving the personal financial burden of student loan debt is for Congress to enact law that would fully cancel federal student loan debt. Moreover, to be equitable, people who did pay their student loan debt should be given credit for having done so, and there must also be a path forward so that post high school education, whether vocational or traditional college academic programs, can be pursued on a basis that is debt free. Also, high school graduates who have never pursued skills training or a college degree should have the opportunity to do so debt free, even if they graduated many years ago.
Federal student loan debt information should not be a part of a person’s credit bureau file. Currently, one out of five people over the age of 18 have student loan debt information associated with their credit files, a high proportion of which has been unfairly reported. As the person who oversaw the federal student loan program, I am aware that negative information has been and continues to be unfairly reported into credit reports. These credit reports determine how much a person pays to borrow for a home, car and other major purchases — or to even be able to obtain credit.
The next senator from Georgia should take the lead in Congress in causing law to be enacted to address this state-level and national crisis of federal student loan indebtedness.
It does seem fitting that the people of Georgia should put into the Senate a leader who will focus on student loan financing reform related to post-high-school education. The Hope Scholarship is a shining example of Georgia having led the way in this regard.
The time for action on this issue is now. We should all be saying to each other, when it comes to student loan debt, that “we are angry and we will not accept this burden anymore!” If we as a nation can spend trillions of tax dollars on foreign wars and corporate bailouts, then certainly we can make the right kind of investment in the human capital of the citizens of Georgia and all of America.
It has been set forth by political consultants that, in the current election climate, “issues” do not and will not matter. These political experts have said that the only thing that will matter to people that will elect the next senator from Georgia is the party that the candidate is representing. I believe differently. I believe that certain issues are of such profound importance that the people of Georgia will support and stand with a leader who is prepared and willing to take on meaningful and worthwhile challenges.
A. Wayne Johnson, a native of Macon who served as CEO of the Office of Federal Student Aid of the U.S. Department of Education. He recently announced his resignation from the department to pursue filling Sen. Johnny Isakson’s seat in the U.S. Senate.