Richmond, Virginia—Progress Virginia, the commonwealth’s leading voice for progressive values, this morning applauded Governor McAuliffe and Governor-elect Northam’s joint focus on tackling the growing student loan debt crisis. In an announcement of their shared legislative agenda for the 2018 session, McAuliffe and Northam highlighted proposals to give student loan borrowers basic consumer protections and assistance navigating repaying their loans. Continuing their focus on supporting working families McAuliffe and Northam also emphasized the need for an immediate expansion of Virginia’s Medicaid program to cover up to 400,000 more Virginians.
“Student loan borrowers should be treated just like everyone else,” said Progress Virginia executive director Anna Scholl. “But for too long, student loan borrowers have been left to navigate a wild west of repayment options rife with scammers and unscrupulous servicing companies. The Borrowers’ Bill of Rights is a desperately needed reform to ensure student loan borrowers have the same basic protections that apply to other types of loan. Combined with a new student loan ombudsman to help borrowers navigate their often confusing repayment options, these solutions will take serious steps forward to tackle the student loan crisis.”
Nationally, over 44 million Americans owe over $1.4 trillion in student loans, the second largest consumer debt. In Virginia, over 1 million borrowers owe over $30 billion. Economists are increasingly expressing concern over how this rapidly increasing debt is slowly home buying, car buying, entrepreneurship, and savings for retirement. Approximately 11% of borrowers default within three years of graduation, a startling statistic illustrating our unsustainable student debt crisis.
McAuliffe and Northam also renewed their push for Medicaid expansion, which would provide up to 400,000 Virginians, many of whom are employed, with access to quality, affordable health care.
“Everyone gets sick and no one deserves go bankrupt struggling to pay medical bills,” Scholl added. “The time is long past due for Virginia to close the coverage gap. Virginians overwhelmingly supported candidates this past November who support expanding health care coverage. We urge the General Assembly to act immediately to pass a clean Medicaid expansion and finally put aside the partisan games and delay tactics that are harming our families.”