When will the student loan debt problem be solved?

College costs are leaving Oregon's students tens of thousands of dollars in debt, but the student loan industry has turned their burden into a cash cow.

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It’s graduation season, which means thousands of young Oregonians are donning their caps and gowns and getting ready to enter the workforce. Unfortunately for so many, along with their hard-earned degree comes the burden of student loan debt. Nationally, 43 million Americans carry more than $1.2 trillion in student loan debt. Here in Oregon, the average student graduates with $25,000 to pay back.  And our underfunded k-12 schools are only making the problem worse. Students entering college without the prep they need to graduate on time end up with even more debt.

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When corporations like Navient bring in millions while everyday Oregonians pay thousands in student loan debt, you know something isn’t right.

While many are left with few other options than to accrue debt while pursuing higher education, student loan servicing companies make millions on the backs of these students. Take Navient Corporation for example, the lender formerly known as SallieMae and publicly traded on Wall Street as NAVI. You heard that right — the company likely to service your Department of Education government loan is publicly traded alongside corporate giants Wal-Mart, Monsanto, and Comcast. In 2015, the Delaware-based finance management giant reported nearly $1 billion in after-tax profits ($997 million to be exact) and paid its CEO $5.3 million — enough to cover the student loan debt of 212 Oregonians!

Despite such healthy profits, Navient reported paying a mere $22 million in state income taxes last year. With numbers like those, surely Navient isn’t paying its fair share of taxes here in Oregon like the rest of us are — and we know they can afford to. When corporations like Navient bring in millions while everyday Oregonians pay thousands in student loan debt (on top of the taxes we owe) you know something isn’t right. It’s time to change that system. The pursuit of higher education shouldn’t be a means for big business to make profits.

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