How Student Debt Became a $1.6 Trillion Crisis


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For more than two years, student loan repayment in the United States has been on pause, and interest on those debts has been frozen in light of the pandemic. In April, that pause was extended to August 31 of this year, offering another temporary reprieve for borrowers, many of whom were struggling to make often-crushing payments well before COVID-19 became a household name. Now, after years of calls to cancel some or all of the nation’s $1.6 trillion in student loan debt, federal policymakers are seriously considering finally taking a step in that direction.

To unpack how student debt became a $1.6 trillion crisis, what’s being discussed in Washington, and why student debt cancellation must be just the beginning of the conversation on making higher education affordable, Rebecca sat down with two of The Century Foundation’s experts on the subject: Tiara Moultrie, a fellow at TCF whose work focuses on higher education accountability, and Peter Granville, a senior policy associate studying federal and state policy efforts to improve college access and affordability.

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