The Daily Tar Heel

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Tuesday December 6th

Democratic National Committee touts efforts on student loans

By emphasizing issues like student debt and voting rights, the Democratic Party is hoping to brand itself as the party of young voters this election season.

The Democratic National Committee held a conference call Wednesday with college newspapers nationwide, focusing on the issue of student loans.

Senate Democrats are attempting to pass a bill this week allowing current and former students to refinance their loans at a lowered interest rate of 3 to 4 percent.

“Student loan debt is now larger than credit card debt in America,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said. “Any student loan should be able to refinance. This will allow them to save money, nearly $2,000 to $5,000 per person.

"That is money that they then can put into the economy to create jobs. Otherwise this debt will cripple our economy.”

The lower interest rate would be compensated for with an income tax hike on people making more than $1 million annually, Murphy added.

He said the student loan reform will be attached to the Democrats' version of the 2015 spending bill, which is unlikely to pass the House.

Despite the obstacles facing the student loan push, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), chairwoman of the DNC, said it is critical for youth voters to understand the difference between the Democratic and Republican parties.

Wasserman Schultz twice called out North Carolina as a state where Republicans have made it hard for students to vote, making college IDs illegal as photo identification and eliminating early registration for 16- and 17-year-olds.

To increase youth voter turnout, the DNC plans to mobilize college Democrats across the country through intense canvassing and phone-banking, said Natasha McKenzie, president of College Democrats of America.

College Democrats are unique, she said, in that they are seeking to increase political pressure on universities to crack down on sexual assault. Wasserman-Schultz echoed this sentiment, saying that President Barack Obama has made it a federal priority to address sexual assault at the campus level.

Murphy said cutting college costs remains a central goal of Democrats in office.

“We need to decrease the barriers to attending college and work on decreasing tuition. People are sitting on the sideline because of the high cost, and as a government, we need to do something about that,” he said.

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