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Democrats’ New Villain: Student debt


Democrats in tight races have found a new villain this election cycle: student debt. 

“It totally limits your options of what you can do,” said one student in an ad from Kentucky U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes, who accuses Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of having “turned his back on the students” for blocking Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s student loan refinancing bill. 

“New Hampshire students leave college with an average of $33,000 in debt—it can slow them down for years,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in another campaign ad supporting Warren’s bill.  [...]

But the most vulnerable borrowers aren’t necessarily those with the highest debt loads, who are more likely to be higher-income students attending graduate school. Those most likely to default on their debt are college dropouts, who tend to be lower-income borrowers who aren’t able to reap the benefits of a degree. 

“The largest predictor someone struggling with a student loan is if they drop out,” said Mark Huelsman, a senior policy analyst at Demos, a New York-based think-tank. Most of the reforms out there “deal with students who currently have debt—the tougher nut to crack is how to prevent tomorrow’s students from taking on debt,” he adds.