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GOP senator blames students who need loans to pay for school

Rather than propose solutions to the student debt crisis, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) cast aspersions on students who struggle with debt.

By Emily Singer - April 26, 2019
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Sen. Joni Ernst

A student loan crisis is plaguing the country, with economists warning that the ballooning debt students now carry is dragging down the U.S. economy.

But rather than propose solutions, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) chastised students who struggle with debt for daring to take out enough loan money to put a roof over their head while they are in school.

In video footage captured by American Bridge, Ernst claimed that the real cause of the student debt crisis isn’t the skyrocketing cost of higher education. Instead, she said, the problem is students who supposedly borrow more money than they really need.

“What I see is a lot of young people are borrowing more than what they need for their education,” Ernst says. “And I’ll give an example of when I was going to school at Iowa State, a friend of mine — and we used to receive checks in the mail back then for student loans — and when he received his student loan check he said, ‘Oh great Joni, look I got my student loan check in the mail, now I can go pay my girlfriend’s rent.’ OK that’s not what the student loan is for, so making sure those students know, don’t borrow more than what that education will cost, and use it for your education, for those books if you need a way of living in the meantime certainly, but don’t borrow more than you have to.”

As anyone who has gone to college without the luxury of having parents paying for their living costs would know, many students are forced to borrow more money to pay for basic necessities such as food and rent.

That’s because colleges and universities do not pay a salary to be a student, and part-time jobs almost never pay enough for students to be self-sufficient.

What’s more, the only evidence Ernst offered for her claim was an anecdote from her own college days — which were in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the overall cost of college was much lower and student debt levels hadn’t become nearly the crisis they are today.

Twitter users called Ernst out for her tone-deaf comments blaming students for the student debt crisis.

“The funniest part of this is acting like a rent payment is irresponsible spending,” one Twitter user replied.

“They used their student loan refund on HOUSING?? What’s next? Food? Books?” another user wrote, mocking Ernst and her detachment from the reality of how students get by.

Ernst’s out-of-touch comments could hurt her standing with younger voters, who are making up a larger and larger part of the electorate, according to recent U.S. Census data.

The number of voters ages 18 to 29 who cast ballots in the 2018 midterms skyrocketed by 79 percent compared to the 2014 midterms, according to the Census data. These are the very voters currently struggling with student debt burdens.

Ernst is already one of the most vulnerable GOP senators up for re-election in 2020. Alienating voters struggling with student debt is unlikely to shore up her position.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation. 


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