It's not just Stafford Loans: Lowering student costs

Washington is in the throes of a debate on extending the favorable interest rate on student loans. It is fodder for Congressional debates and the President has made it an election issue by “Slow Jamming” the issue on the Jimmy Fallon Show.  That rate – 3.4% -- will double on new loans starting July 1 unless Congress takes action.


Emergency Epinephrine in schools will save lives

Recently, Virginia passed a law requiring schools to stock epinephrine and authorizing school staff to administer it to any child believed to be suffering an anaphylactic reaction. Known as “Amarria’s Law,” the bill was inspired by an incident in January in which first-grader Amarria Johnson died after an anaphylactic reaction to eating a peanut. Sadly, Amarria’s death was entirely preventable, but her school did not have an epinephrine auto-injector on hand to save her life.     

Today, only two states – Nebraska and Virginia – have laws requiring schools to stock epinephrine. In a country where six million children live with food allergies, we ought to have a national strategy to make sure life-saving epinephrine is available in our schools. 

There are no Republican or Democratic solutions to this problem, only a human solution based in compassion and common sense. That’s why we have partnered to introduce H.R. 3627, the “School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act,” to encourage states to adopt the policy enacted recently in Virginia following Amarria’s tragic death. Identical legislation was put forward in the Senate by Illinois Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk.


Help ease the financial burden of medical education

Lately, there has been a lot of talk on Capitol Hill about student loans, with each political party proposing different ways to prevent student loan interest rates from doubling, as they are set to do this summer. As a pediatrician going into a pediatric subspecialty, I am painfully aware of the financial burden of medical education: I owe more than $350,000 in education loans, including college and a Masters in Public Health graduate degree, and  only part of that sum includes medical school. For me and so many others like me across the country, loan repayment has become an additional 30 year mortgage, and its staggering debt makes it nearly impossible to contemplate new investments like a home or college savings for my own child’s future.
I take on this burden because I love what I do: caring for children in some of the scariest moments of their young lives, when they visit the emergency room. I am currently pursuing a fellowship in emergency medicine here in DC. In this field, I can help pediatric patients in nearly every aspect of their health in the moment when they need me the most. It is exhausting, rewarding work, and I can’t imagine doing anything else.


Patchwork of accountability could leave students behind

Policymakers on both sides of the aisle are taking to the airwaves, urging a return to local control of education. Some have even suggested that No Child Left Behind (NCLB) ushered in a “one size fits all” approach to education with little or no flexibility.


To fix student loans, respect education

The House Republican majority recently passed a budget that deeply slashes Pell Grants for nearly 10 million college students and allows student loan interest rates to double in July.


The bullying epidemic: What’s next

In 2012, more than 13 million children will be teased, taunted and physically assaulted by their peers, making bullying the most common form of violence our nation’s youth experience this year.


Debate on student loan debt doesn't go far enough

As Congress debates the extremely narrow issue of whether to extend the current 3.4% interest rate on Federal Student Loans, or to let that rate expire and, thus, double to its previous level of 6.8%, both sides of the aisle are missing an opportunity to do something unique, decisive and bold: adopt legislation that forgives excessive student loan debt after a reasonable repayment period.

Representative Hansen Clarke (D-Mich.) introduced an unprecedented piece of legislation in March - H.R. 4170, The Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012, in response to over 660,000 people who signed a petition I started in favor of student loan forgiveness. Yet, despite the public outcry, only one member initially stepped up to put his name and reputation on the line in order to draw attention to the ever-growing crisis of student loan debt.  Rep. Clarke has taken on the role of Champion for the educated poor – the 36 million Americans who are drowning under the weight of their student loan debts. A new petition I started in favor of H.R. 4170 currently has over 939,000 signatures.