‘The next generation is starting their economic race 50 yards behind the starting line.’

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Back in 2004, I had the opportunity to commission a series of articles for the Village Voice about student debt. We called it “Generation Debt.” The first installment, “The Ambition Tax,” was written by the brilliant Brendan Koerner. I remember that the draft came in at 4,000 words or so, and contained almost no quotes. One of them was from a Harvard Law professor who had just written a book about middle-income debt. At the time, no one was talking much about student debt, but she did:

“The next generation is starting their economic race 50 yards behind the starting line,” says Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard Law School professor and author of The Two-Income Trap. “They’ve got to pay off the equivalent of one full mortgage before they make it to flat broke, in order to pay for their education. They can never get ahead of the game, because they’re constantly trying to play catch-up.

“And once you’ve got accumulated debt, the debt takes on a life of its own. It demands to be fed, and it takes that first bite out of the paycheck. And it means the opportunity to accumulate a little, to get a little ahead, to maybe put together a down payment—it’s just never there. It’s just staggering to me that this is not a part of our national debate right now.”

Nearly a decade later, as Senator Elizabeth Warren, that frustrated law professor has introduced a bill – her first – to cut the interest on school loans. As Steve blogged earlier, she’s proposing that students would pay the same rate as big banks instead of seven times as much. It’s kind of cool to think how history goes sometimes. 

Elizabeth Warren and Student Loans

'The next generation is starting their economic race 50 yards behind the starting line.'

Updated