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Editorial: Student debt has a unique impact on rural America

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, one of the many Democrats seeking her party’s presidential nomination, has proposed to wipe away student debt and make public colleges free.

Set aside, if you can, how you feel about Warren. Set aside, too, how you feel about Democrats, in general. Instead, let’s try to look dispassionately at the issue she’s trying to address: The growing debt that Americans must rack up to attend college. Warren’s proposal comes from the left, but there’s growing recognition across the political spectrum that student debt is becoming a drag on the rest of the economy — that graduates are so weighed down by debt that they’re putting off buying cars, buying houses and starting families. That’s the kind of thing that gets the attention of otherwise conservative members of the business community. The Virginia Chamber of Commerce recently held an energy conference in Roanoke. A gathering of some of the state’s leading capitalists is not exactly a celebration of socialism. However, when one group of panelists was asked what their companies needed to grow in Virginia, the answers were not lower taxes or fewer regulations. Instead, the president of a Northern Virginia company that works with the nuclear industry said he was worried about the “insurmountable” debt that college graduates were trying to pay off. He called for more student funding to lower tuition. And the president of an electric cooperative in Southside said he had trouble finding workers because they needed credentials from a community college — but many people couldn’t afford to attend in the first place. That doesn’t speak to the debt issue, but does speak to the free college aspect of Warren’s proposal.

The amount of student debt started rising abruptly in 2004 and has now more than tripled. Since 2010, student loans debt has been bigger than debts for credit card or auto loans. Student loan debt now adds up to $1.47 trillion.

To read more about the impact of student debt, check out the article below.