June 19, 2024
Loans

Former Members of Congress Discuss Student Loan Forgiveness


Students gather in the Fireside Room to hear Mimi Walters, R-CA and Alan Lowenthal, D-CA. Seaver College and the School of Public Policy hosted Congress to Campus: The Value of Healthy Partnership on Jan. 23. Photos by Riley Haywood
Students gather in the Fireside Room to hear Mimi Walters, R-CA and Alan Lowenthal, D-CA. Seaver College and the School of Public Policy hosted Congress to Campus: The Value of Healthy Partnership on Jan. 23. Photos by Riley Haywood

Former Congress members discussed on Jan. 23, the recent Student Loan Forgiveness plan passed and who they believe should back the student loans.

Pete Peterson, dean of the School of Public Policy, introduced the discussion at the W. David Baird Distinguished Lecture Series with Mimi Walters, R-CA, and Alan Lowenthal, D-CA. This particular lecture was a partnership between Seaver College and the School of Public Policy, focusing on the value of healthy partnership that took place Jan. 23.

“As a school that is deeply committed to what we call ‘viewpoint diversity,’ I know you are going to enjoy hearing both of their experiences,” Peterson said.

Walters and Lowenthal, former Congress members, discussed the additional $5 billion Biden added to the Student Debt Relief Plan.

Public Policy Professor Robert Kaufman discusses public service with former Congress members Mimi Walters and Alan Lowenthal on Jan. 23 in the Fireside Room. Walters and Lowenthal worked on opposite sides of the aisle as members of the 114 Congress.
Public Policy Professor Robert Kaufman discusses public service with former Congress members Mimi Walters and Alan Lowenthal on Jan. 23 in the Fireside Room. Walters and Lowenthal worked on opposite sides of the aisle as members of the 114 Congress.

Walters said she is a California native. Her political career began at Dana Hills High School in Dana Point, when she was a sophomore and became involved in student government, she said. Walters ran and became a member of the Laguna Niguel City Council in 1996. In 2015, she was elected to the 114 Congress, according to the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.

Lowenthal said he is from New York and was a Psychology faculty member at California State University Long Beach. Lowenthal began his political involvement as a member of Long Beach City Council in 1992 and was first elected to Congress in 2013, according to the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.

President Biden announced Jan. 19, that he will be granting $5 billion to the Student Debt Relief Plan, according to CBS. The cancellation of debt applies to service workers, including teachers, nurses and firefighters who have worked 10 years or more in their occupation. This brings the federal loan forgiveness total to over $130 billion that will be distributed to over 3.7 million Americans, according to CBS.

“I don’t agree with it,” Walters said.

The student loan forgiveness deal falls back on the taxpayers, requiring them to pay off student loans. The private loans aren’t being forgiven; it’s the federal loans that are being forgiven, Walters said.

A big issue that Walters said she has with the Student Debt Relief Plan is, if it’s easy for students to receive federal loans, then there’s no sense of urgency for colleges to budget their prices.

“There has been no urgency for the college system and universities to watch their costs,” Walters said.

College’s incentives to lower their costs will be thrown out the window if anyone is able to take out a federal loan knowing it will be forgiven, Walters said.

It’s a matter of responsibility, Walters said. People need to take on responsibility when they take out their loans.

Lowenthal said, when he attended college, he took out loans, but that was a different time.

“We lived in a different time, where the expectation was, if you worked, you could pay it off,” Lowenthal said.

That isn’t the reality today, Lowenthal said. He believes it’s the government’s responsibility to help students pay off their loans because they likely didn’t know how large the loan was when they applied for it.

“They will not become successful members of society if they have such a huge burden that they have no way of paying,” Lowenthal said.

There has been recent debate over who should be responsible for supplying loans — the federal government or universities themselves.

“If universities were backing loans, then there’s probably an incentive for the loans to get paid back,” Walters said.

“With large sums of money being passed to forgive student loans, taxpayers are now the ones paying the bill,” Walters said.

If the university is distributing the loans and they aren’t being paid, “Who is losing if they don’t pay it back? The university,” Walters said.

Lowenthal said, for private universities, that would be a tough request.

“There’s a lot of private colleges and private institutions that just don’t have the resources,” Lowenthal said.

Walters and Lowenthal joked about being retired from politics and what surprised them most about the job.

“It’s liberating to be gone, right? You can control your own life now,” Walters said.

Lowenthal and Walters both began their political careers at the local level, which they refer to as “grassroots.” They attribute their success in being elected to Congress to their “grassroot” beginnings. This solidified the knowledge and obligations of the job working in politics at a local level before taking it onto a national scale, Walters said.

“What was surprising to me was what limited time you have,” Walters said.

Political leaders are expected to be knowledgeable on a wide variety of topics, Walters said. She said this led her to rely heavily on her staff because they were an instrumental part of her work.

“You think you have some control over your day, but everything is a crisis,” Lowenthal said. “That was a shock.”

This is the crisis of the day every day, Walters said.

For the remainder of the evening, Walters and Lowenthal discussed a wide variety of political topics, including term limits, climate change and division.

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Contact Rachel Flynn via email: rachel.flynn@pepperdine.edu





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