It is common knowledge that politicians across party lines have different opinions on everything including the issue of student loan debt. However, even lawmakers of the same party tend to disagree about how to tackle the huge student debt problem according to new research by LendEDU.
Take the state of Georgia which has average student loan debt per borrower of $26,851 and a default rate of 7.42 percent according to the new research. While the state’s congressional districts are dominated by Republicans, there are a smattering of Democrats, creating bipartisan disunity. How they want to tackle the $1.3 trillion in student loan debt varies compared to their Republican colleagues.
Georgia’s David Perdue, a two-year Republican Senator, backs low interest rates for student loans as well as efforts to improve financial literacy among student loan borrowers, but his proactivity stops there. He doesn’t back loan forgiveness, expanding the Pell Grant program to help more low income students go to college, or federal student loan refinancing. While Senator Perdue recognizes that college grads “have sizable student loans and still can’t find meaningful employment,” he isn’t likely to back federal education programs that could run up the national debt toll since Perdue is focused on reducing government debt.
On the flip side, Senator Johnny Isakson, fellow twelve-year Republican Senator from Georgia, supports the use of Pell grants to increase accessibility to college, contrary to his colleague. He’s on the same page with Perdue in supporting low interest rates for student loans, and he also does not express support federal refinancing or loan forgiveness. It can be said that these two same-party Senators have similar ideas, but they lack complete partisan unity.
Georgian Democratic politicians in the House of Representatives are more supportive of college affordability initiatives than their Republican counterparts. Take Rep. John Lewis of District 5. This Georgian Democrat supports low student loan interest rates, Pell grant expansion (increasing access to higher education for low-income students), student loan refinancing (meaning he would have student loans refinanced by the government, not in the private sector), student loan forgiveness, and tax benefits for companies that offer to pay off a portion of student debt. Same goes for Rep. David Scott of District 13 who is nearly in lockstep with Rep. Lewis when it comes to supporting reforms.
An extreme example of a Georgian Republican that differs in his support of student loan reforms within his own party is Rep. Barry Loudermilk from District 11. The lawmaker has not expressed support for any of the major student loan reforms; although, he sits on a STEM committee and is a proponent of teaching STEM in schools. The politician also embraces strict fiscal responsibility and wants entitlement programs to be sustainable, implying that he does not support expanding Pell grants.
A similar story can be told throughout the country. Bipartisan politics plague Congress and political action by perpetuating a gridlocked system, this new research further established that intra-party differences persist to exacerbate the gridlock. This is especially true for any decisions on student loan issues. Many congressmen and women represent various constituencies which is a source for contrasting priorities. For instance, Rep. Tom Price represents nearly 40,000 college students while Rep. John Lewis represents nearly twice that. Such a contrast is likely to generate differing agendas on the Congressional floor.
Author: Andrew Rombach
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