City Council plans hearings on student debt

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 College student Manny Martinez, previewing what Council members might hear, says for a person of limited means, earning a degree means overwhelming debt. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

College student Manny Martinez, previewing what Council members might hear, says for a person of limited means, earning a degree means overwhelming debt. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

With many college graduates taking decades to pay off their student loans, Philadelphia City Council intends to hold hearings on college affordability.  

 

College student Manny Martinez, previewing what Council members might hear, said for a person of limited means, earning a degree means overwhelming debt.

“Student loans are sharecropping because we are supposed to finish our college education with the expectation that, from that moment, we can begin our lives with the tools that we need,” he said. “Instead, we have a burden on our back that does not allow us to raise the standards of our living.”

More than two decades after becoming a lawyer, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said, student debts still haunt him.

“Anything that we can do to attract people to our city to solve its problems to keep the wonderful intelligent people from all over the world to keep them here so we don’t have brain drain to allow the best to remain here,” Williams said. “We need to study that.”

The issue of student debt extends far beyond students, said Justice Freeman, who said his parents are working two jobs each to send him to Temple University.

“Someone with a liberal arts background trying to get into public service and public works, we don’t really have much incentive to do that,” he said. “People who go into public works don’t have the income that people in the private sector do.”

City Councilman Dennis O’Brien, who called for the hearings on college affordability, said he doesn’t want graduates to struggle with debt while they aspire to a better life.

Even though Council has limited power on the issue of student debt, O’Brien said he wants to shine a light on the problem.

Upcoming hearings will focus on debt forgiveness for those entering public service and subsidizing student loans.

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