SOLEDAD: WELCOME BACK TO MATTER
OF FACT FROM PENNSYLVANIA. ONE CAMPAIGN ISSUE RESONATING
HERE IS STUDENT LOAN DEBT. AMERICANS OWE NEARLY $1.5
TRILLION IN STUDENT LOANS. COLLEGE AND POST-SECONDARY
EDUCATION IS NOW THE LARGEST
SOURCE OF CONSUMER BORROWING
BEHIND MORTGAGE LOANS. AND IN PENNSYLVANIA, GRADUATES
HERE HAVE THE HIGHEST AVERAGE
STUDENT LOAN DEBT IN THE
COUNTRY, OWING ABOUT $36,000
AFTER GRADUATION. CORRESPONDENT JESSICA GOMEZ
TELLS US, AS THE STATE TRIES TO
GET A HANDLE ON THIS GROWING
CRISIS, MANY BORROWERS ARE
WORRIED THEIR DEBT WILL FOLLOW
THEM FOR LIFE. JESSICA: 29-YEAR-OLD CARLOS
APONTE, RIDING HIS BIKE THE 15
MILES ROUND-TRIP TO WORK TO SAVE
MONEY. THE PHILADELPHIA HIGH SCHOOL
HISTORY TEACHER IS IN DEBT, AND
HAS BEEN SINCE HE GRADUATED FROM
TEMPLE UNIVERSITY 7 YEARS AGO.>>IS THE BIGGEST REGRET OF MY
LIFE. DEFINITELY IS. $192 A MONTH IS THE MINIMUM
PAYMENT. JESSICA: APONTE’S STUDENT LOAN
DEBT, THOUGH, NO LAUGHING
MATTER. THE FIRST IN HIS FAMILY TO GO TO
COLLEGE, HE APPLIED FOR $50,000
IN FEDERAL AND PRIVATE LOANS. SO FAR HE’S PAID BACK ABOUT
$14,000. BUT WITH HIGH INTEREST RATES, HE
KNOWS $57,000. MORE THAN HE ORIGINALLY TOOK
OUT.>>THE VOCABULARY WAS ALL
FOREIGN TO ME. VARIABLE RATES, FIXED RATES, I
DIDN’T KNOW WHAT ANY OF IT
MEANT. I THOUGHT I WAS GOING TO BE A
SERVICE TO OTHER PEOPLE AND
EVERYTHING WOULD WORK OUT.>>IT WILL IMPACT THEIR ABILITY
TO BUY A HOME, TO FORM A FAMILY,
HAVE CHILDREN. JESSICA: AT THE FEDERAL RESERVE
BANK OF PHILADELPHIA, DUBRAVKA
RITTER SPECIALIZES IN STUDENT
LOAN DEBT. SHE SAYS THE SKYROCKETING COST
OF COLLEGE TUITION IS PART OF
THE PROBLEM.>>WE HAVE SOME OF THE HIGHEST
TUITION IN THE COUNTRY
IN ADDITION, THE PRE-RECESSION
LEVELS OF SUPPORT FROM THE STATE
FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION HAVE NOT
BEEN RESTORED. JESSICA: JENNIFER O’MARA, ALSO
THE FIRST IN HER FAMILY TO GO TO
COLLEGE, TOOK OUT
$36,000 IN FEDERAL LOANS TO GET
HER UNDERGRADUATE AND MASTER’S
DEGREES. VETERA
UNTIL RECENTLY, THE 29-YEAR-OLD
WAS WORKING THREE JOBS.>>I HAVE A STORY TO TELL YOU. JESSICA: LAST NOVEMBER, THINGS
CHANGED. SHE RAN FOR A SEAT ON THE
PENNSYLVANIA STATE LEGISLATURE
AND WON, BECOMING THE YOUNGEST
FEMALE DEMOCRAT TO GET ELECTED. SHE’S MAKING STUDENT LOAN DEBT
PRIORITY NUMBER ONE.>>IS A STRESSFUL SITUATION. YOU THOUGHT YOU WERE DOING
EVERYTHING RIGHT. NOW YOU HAVE A DEGREE, YOU HAVE
A GOOD JOB, AND YOU STILL CAN’T
GET AHEAD. JESSICA: SHE ENLISTED THE HELP
OF ANOTHER MILLENNIAL FRESHMAN
REPRESENTATIVE. THEY’VE CREATED THE STUDENT DEBT
CAUCUS.>>EVERYBODY SEEMS TO HAVE A
STORY. JESSICA: THE STATE REPS SAY THEY
ARE FOCUSING ON PREDATORY
LENDING, COLLEGE TUITION COST,
AND HOW TO IMPROVE FINANCIAL
LITERACY FOR YOUNG PEOPLE.>>IF THIS IS THE FIELD YOU WANT
TO GO INTO, THIS IS PROBABLY
SOME OF THE JOB OPPORTUNITIES
AND THIS IS WHAT THEY MAKE.>>WE ARE GOING TO BE DIGGING
OUT OF THIS PROBLEM FOR YEARS
AND YEARS. I DON’T KNOW HOW I’M GOING TO
LOOK MY KIDS IN THE FACE AND
TELL THEM THAT THEY NEED TO GO
TO COLLEGE AND DO THE SAME THING
I DID. HOW DO I SET THEM DOWN THAT SAME
PATH?>>HOW MANY OF YOU THINK YOU ARE
GOING TO GO TO COLLEGE? JESSICA: CARLOS FEELS THE SAME
PRESSURE WHEN IT COMES TO HIS
STUDENTS.>>HOW DO I IN GOOD FAITH TELL
STUDENTS TO GO TO SCHOOL IF THEY
ARE GOING TO TAKE OUT THIS KIND
OF DEBT AS AN 18-YEAR-OLD? THIS IS THE BIGGEST FINANCIAL
DECISION YOU ARE GOING TO MAKE
IN YOUR LIFE AND YOU HAVE TO DO
IT AT 18? JESSICA: HE’S STILL PASSIONATE
THOUGH, ABOUT MAKING A
DIFFERENCE. HOPING TO PASS ON THE LIFE
LESSONS HE LEARNED, THE HARD
WAY.>>I WOULD TELL MY 17-YEAR-OLD
SELF TO RELAX, TAKE A MINUTE, GO
FIND HELP, FIND SOMEONE WHO HAS
BEEN THROUGH IT. DON’T BE IN SUCH A RUSH TO BE A
GROWN-UP WITHOUT GROWING UP
YOURSELF. JESSICA: IN PHILADELPHIA,
JESSICA GOMEZ. SOLEDAD: PENNSYLVANIA’S ATTORNEY
GENERAL HAS JOINED OTHER STATES
IN SUING SOME OF THE COUNTRY’S
TOP STUDENT LOAN SERVICERS,
ACCUSING THEM OF PUS