Statement of Senator Bernie Sanders
Vermont Student Assistance Corporation
Every year, VSAC helps manage the cost of college for thousands of Vermonters by providing grants, loans, scholarships, and career and education planning. Its services are particularly important for students who are the first in their family to go to college.
The budget agreement that passed in December included a provision that could have decimated non-profit student loan servicers all over the country. I was proud to work with Senator Leahy and Congressman Welch to help preserve the vital role of non-profit servicers like VSAC.
Each year, the Department of Education issues more than $100 billion worth of student loans, and the vast majority of those loans are serviced by for-profit companies. The largest student loan servicer, Sallie Mae, made record profits of $543 million in the second quarter of 2013 alone.
Despite the fact that Sallie Mae has been the subject of numerous lawsuits involving allegations of fraud and deceptive lending practices, the Department of Education considers them a “favored servicer.” I believe this is wrong.
The simple fact is that non-profit lenders like VSAC have a broader mission than for-profit lenders. VSAC exists to help all Vermonters pursue their higher education goals.
But there is something much bigger going on here, and it involves our national priorities. To my mind, as a nation, we should be ensuring that every young person who has the ability and desire to pursue a college education can do just that, regardless of the family’s income. It seems to me that a very a good place to start is not profiting on the backs of our youth who pursue a college degree.
Student debt – which now exceeds one trillion dollars – has tripled in the past decade as college costs have skyrocketed. Nearly 70% of Vermont’s college graduates carry student debt, averaging nearly $29,000 per student. This places a significant burden on graduates as they enter the workforce, start families, and purchase their first homes.
The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions – on which I serve – has begun discussing reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. I will do everything possible to substantially increase our investment in higher education, and to make college more affordable. After all, there simply is no better investment in our country’s future than investing in the education of our youth.
I look forward to working with Senator Leahy and Congressman Welch to ensure VSAC continues to play an important role in helping Vermont students realize their dreams of attending college.