WASHINGTON -- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) seemed to have little sympathy for students who have accumulated massive amounts of student debt during a town hall with constituents last week. Instead of looking to the government to forgive their debt, he said, they should start looking at schools that are cheaper.
Last Monday, when meeting with constituents in Buckner, Ky., McConnell was asked what changes should be made so that students aren't leaving school with tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt. As Joe Sonka at LEO Weekly noted, McConnell ruled out any government intervention. The Huffington Post also received audio of the town hall from Taylor Riley of The Oldham Era, who reported on the gathering.
"I think it’s outrageous that it costs as much as it does, but I don't think the federal government ought to be in the business of forgiving, in effect, obligations owed ... So I rule out forgiving obligations that have been voluntarily incurred," said McConnell, noting that "mentality" is how the United States has amassed a large federal debt.
More of McConnell's comments:
A lot of college debt -- a significant amount -- is related to graduate school. There are a lot of low-cost options that I hope more and more kids will take advantage of. Public schools are cheaper than private schools. There is proprietary education, which works for some people. The cost of higher education is way too high.
What I think it would benefit from is a lot of competition, which is one of the reasons that I'm a fan of proprietary education, because it’s providing private competition for traditional colleges and universities, most of which I attended and most of you probably attended. [...]
So I think the best short-term solution is for parents to be very cost-conscious in shopping around for higher education alternatives. Not everybody needs to go to Yale. I don't know about you guys, but I went to a regular ol' Kentucky college. And some people would say I've done okay.
McConnell recently helped kill a proposal by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), which would have enabled millions of Americans to refinance their student loans into cheaper debt by increasing taxes on wealthy households. In return, Warren went down to Kentucky to campaign for McConnell's opponent, Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes.
Cost isn't the only factor when students are looking for colleges. Under McConnell's reasoning, if a low-income student gets into a top-tier private college, he or she should maybe look for a community or for-profit school instead because it would be more affordable -- regardless of the quality of the education.
According to Pew, some for-profit colleges "provide subprime loans to students who are unlikely to be able to repay the debt. While students at for-profit colleges make up 13 percent of college students, they account for 31 percent of student loans and about half of loan defaults."
One in 25 graduates defaults on their student loans, but that number rises to 1 in 5 among graduates of two-year for-profit colleges.
McConnell also spoke about women's rights at the event, as Riley reported, saying that "most of the barriers [for women] have been lowered."
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