The value advantage of a college degree is evident with the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Figures for full time workers, ages 25 and over, reveal that a worker without a high school diploma averages $472 a week as opposed to a worker with a high school diploma, who makes $651 a week. Compare both workers to that of one with a bachelor’s degree at $1,329 a week and you can see that it pays to go to college. Or does it for some 40 million students?

According to the New York Federal Reserve, since 2004, student loan debt has nearly tripled, with federal student loan debt surpassing $1 trillion nationwide for the first time ever. While most forms of consumer debt have fallen since 2008, student loan debt has grown, eclipsing both auto loan and credit card debt. Mortgages are the largest form of consumer debt.

The Senate recently attempted to alleviate the student debt burden but failed. Massachusetts Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren proposed a bill that would have allowed federal and private student loan borrowers to refinance their loans at today’s lower rate at 3.84 percent the rate for current borrowers.

It would have been paid for by the Buffett Rule – that asks everyone to pay their fair share. Some 55,000 millionaires pay a lower effective tax rate than millions of middle-income Americans.

All of the Democrats, two Independents and only three Republicans voted for it – the vote was 56-38 – but it fell short of the 60 needed to get past a filibuster. Whatever happened to “majority rules?” Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called the bill political, stating that the issue wasn’t about students but a ploy to win elections in November.

A disappointed Warren took to the Senate floor to ask, “Is America for billionaires or students?” President Obama also weighed in by signing a student loan forgiveness bill entitled Pay As You Earn, making student loans more affordable. The borrower now only pays 10 percent of their monthly income in order to keep from falling behind on payments.

I reviewed my student loan payment from the ’60s, totaling less than $2,000, and found it a struggle to pay it back. At today’s inflationary prices these students need help – and now.

I give you President John Adams’ toast: Independence forever.

Jerry Plantz lives in Lee’s Summit. His website is at Reach him at