Sanders beats the student loan drum. Loudly.

January 11, 2016

Bernie Sanders wants to know how much you’re in debt. Indeed, the Vermont senator positively encourages supporters at his rallies to discuss how much money they owe on student loans. 

Bernie Sanders in Marshalltown, Iowa January 10, 2016. REUTERS/Brian C. Frank

At a forum on climate change in Boone, Iowa on Sunday, an attendee, a university senior “already swimming in debt,” asked the Vermont senator to elaborate his plans to lessen the burden of college loan expenses, prompting this exchange: 

“You have millions of people, including people in this room, who are struggling with outrageously high levels of student debt, am I right?” Sanders asked the 550 strong crowd to cheers, inspiring one woman to shout out her own $100,000 student loan burden.

 “$100,000 in debt for the crime of getting an education,” Sanders said, as other supporters began yelling out their college obligations.

 “$83,000,” one voice shouts. “$60,000,” came another.  

 “$120,000, $140,000, $150,000,’ others yell. 

 “My wife and I both have Ph.Ds,” one man in the crowd said, totaling up to $300,000 student debt for the couple. 

 “I feel like this is a Vermont auction,” Sanders joked as participants yelled out their various levels of college expenses–all of which were way higher than the $27,000 that the U.S. federal government estimates as the average student loan debt at a four-year institution. 

 “We’re laughing here, but really this is not only not a laughing matter,” he said when the crowd finally quieted. 

 “What we’re saying is you’re going to be shackled in debt for decades because you wanted to get an education,” he said.

 Sanders has proposed making tuition at public colleges and universities free of cost, which critics have accused of idealistically ignoring how such a plan would be funded. 

Iowa voters go to their nominating caucuses on Feb. 1.



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