My first-year salary as an attorney under the U.S. Department of Justice Honors Program was some $7,696. In short, my total educational debt only slightly exceeded my first-year salary as a civil service lawyer.
I do not recall any particular burden in repaying that debt for life-changing study at two “brand-name” universities.
During later service on my law dean’s advisory committee, I also recall this debate about then-higher student debt. But a second look revealed that the higher student debt of that later era was matched by the first-year civil service salaries of entry-level lawyers also of that era. And entry-level private-practice lawyer salaries now significantly exceed the salaries of civil service lawyers in public agencies.
T.R. Murphy, Bethesda
George F. Will misrepresented the facts about our proposal to cancel up to $50,000 in student debt.
Mr. Will might be surprised to learn that student loan debt isn’t just a problem for college graduates: About 40 percent of the people with student loan debt do not have a college degree. Borrowers who did not finish their degree have a much harder time paying off their debt — they are three times as likely to default. Our proposal would forgive 90 percent of debt for people with some college but no degree, 87 percent of debt for people with associate degrees and 72 percent for those with bachelor’s degrees.
This is also a matter of racial equity: Students of color are also far more likely to take on student loans than White students, in higher amounts, and upon graduation they frequently earn less than White graduates do. A study from Brandeis University found that after 20 years of student loan payments, the median Black borrower had $18,500 left in debt; the median White borrower had $1,000. For those Black students who entered college in 2003 to 2004, nearly half of borrowers defaulted on their loans within 12 years. Canceling student debt would significantly advance racial justice by immediately increasing Black and Latino wealth and disproportionately helping students of color.
If memory serves, the columnist was aggrieved that anyone had the temerity to criticize Republican tax cuts for benefiting corporations and the mega-wealthy because, well, that’s just how the cookie crumbles. But God forbid Democrats want to help the nearly 43 million Americans drowning in an ever-rising ocean of student loan debt.
Charles E. Schumer, Washington
The writer, a Democrat from
New York, is majority leader
of the U.S. Senate.
Elizabeth Warren, Washington
The writer, a Democrat, represents Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate.