My student loans haunt my nightmares.  I feel buried alive by the burden.  Therefore, when I read that Republican congressional candidate Daryl Kipnis, New Jersey’s 12th District, raised the issue of student indebtedness, he captured my attention.

He stated. “When elected, I will proudly sponsor a bill expanding loan assistance programs, refinance options, income-based modification of loan balances, and most importantly, the ability to discharge student loans in bankruptcy, which is greatly needed to take people who are badly struggling financially and place them in a position where they are empowered to grow our economy and live the American dream.”

Kipnis, who practices law in Somerset, explained that “For many of our youngest, and most promising citizens, student debt has forced almost an entire generation into a form of indentured
servitude. Their debt runs in the thousands to more than $100,000, giving them the equivalent of a mortgage payment before most of them even have a job.”

Data from the U.S. Department of Education indicates that student loan debt has increased from $516 billion to more than $1.3 trillion from 2007 to 2017.  During the same period, the number of students owing money has gone from 28.3 million to 42.6 million as shown by this data.

“We must act now to avert the impending cataclysm of more than $1.3 trillion in current student debt before it destroys the financial health of an entire generation,” he added. Furthermore, “Unless we ease the financial burden of these loan debts for some 42 million students now, the future financial impacts will be devastating to our overall economy.”

In addition to legislation to help students with existing debt, Kipnis also wants to work on reforming the system that causes students to borrow way beyond their means. One of his strategies is to rely upon “free market forces to work, bringing costs down and delivering the product of education to the masses at a reasonable cost.”

Another method involves “stackable credentialing.”  The U.S.Department of Labor defines stackable credentialing as a “part of a sequence of credentials that can be accumulated over time to build up an individual’s qualifications and help them move along a career pathway or up a career ladder to different and potentially higher paying jobs.”

Kipnis still must take on Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman before he can wrestle with the law in Congress.  At the very least, there is a dialogue about this topic and ideas about how to improve the system.  It is too late to save me, but young people should have access to affordable education and equal opportunities for future financial success.

Sherri Ruggieri is the managing editor of Empire State News. A practicing attorney for over 20 years, Ms. Ruggieri is also chairperson of Edison Township’s Planning Board. Additionally, she has served as a college professor, with nearly a decade of experience in teaching law and political science courses.