Congressman Cleaver hosts student loan town hall at MCC

U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver scheduled his town hall on student loan debt to run for 90 minutes, but he allowed all who wanted to speak, extending the event to two hours.

U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver listened intently to concerns about loan debt as students, former students and concerned community members stepped in front of microphones Aug. 2 at the Metropolitan Community College-Penn Valley Education Center.

MCC hosted the town hall, which was organized by the congressman’s office to gather information about the burden of so many who are struggling to pay off cumbersome student loan debt.  Cleaver stated that the problem is one “we can’t afford to ignore any further,” citing these numbers: About 44 million people owe nearly $1.4 trillion for the cost of their education.

About 200 people gathered to listen and provide input.

Incoming MCC student Andrew Lipker was the last person to speak.

In the audience was incoming MCC student Andrew Lipker. He talked about how he had been enrolled in two separate four-year institutions since 2013 and because of some setbacks, he took out $50,000 in loans. Community college became a more cost-effective way for him to finish his education.

“Thankfully, I am very blessed that MCC let me in, because I am working at a place now where I can afford, barely, but I can afford seven credit hours here,” Lipker said.

“Student loans should not dictate how your life goes,” he added. He will be in MCC’s paralegal program when fall classes start Aug. 23.

His $50,000 in debt was on the low side compared to others who spoke. One woman stated that before she was clear of her loans, she would have paid 435 percent of the original loan amount for a total of half a million dollars.

Cleaver said people must speak out about student loans and ensure students are aware of what they are signing. “I’m hoping one of the things we can do tonight is break the quiet,” he said.

Cleaver talked about Congress’ responsibility to mitigate the loan crisis. “It’s our job,” he said, “and right now, we are not doing our job.”