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Break the cycle of disengagement

A common thread connects many of the issues we face in 2018: increasingly complex policy challenges and decreasing public engagement.

Trade dominated international conversations this month, and countless economists are expressing frustration that no one understands the idea of comparative advantage, despite its huge impact on our economic lives.

Nationally, Americans debate data security and the integrity of information, but most technical experts seem to conclude that, while there may be top-down policy solutions we can try, none can substitute for individuals taking responsibility for the information they take in and give out.

At the state level, Coloradans want better education and transportation, but few enough of us fully understand the constitutional tax problems that keep better schools and roads out of reach.

In Boulder, I have noticed this engagement challenge in conversations about both affordable housing and municipalization. I find it easy to talk about how Boulder is too expensive but hard to actually address the problem while protecting open space and avoiding challenges that accompany higher population density. I love to complain about expensive government boondoggles as much as anyone. However, unpacking the whole truth and nothing but the truth about why utility projects can take years to launch successfully and about the real costs of our contract with Xcel is a process that takes time and energy. It’s certainly less effort to content oneself with the status quo.

Time and energy are hard to come by these days. Economic hardship, a chaotic media environment, and unresponsive politics can quickly drive one to disengage. However, that kind of reasoning drives a vicious cycle of dysfunction and disengagement, and it’s time for Boulder to take the lead in breaking that cycle.

By Conor May, Boulder

State licencing would make student loans fairer

I remember stories my dad told me of what my grandfather called wasted youth. This stereotype of partying all night and studying all day is not a full picture of a student’s time. For many students, working during school becomes a necessity. But part-time work these days doesn’t come close to paying for a four-year degree.

For more students than ever before, student loans are the only option they see to get through college, and from application to graduation, both students and their parents are inundated with offers for student loan financing. Students are often forced to take these loan servicers’ word and trust them to be fair.

Unfortunately, student loan servicers in Colorado are rarely required to be licensed. According to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, student loan servicers have used the lack of oversight to keep students on the hook as long as possible by failing to post payments on time, applying payments to interest instead of the principal, and leading students away from the quickest repayment options.

Without state licensing of student loan servicers, Colorado students and their families are at risk of the same fraudulent treatment. By 2017, Coloradans have already filled 900 complaints against fraudulent practice by loan servicers, an increase of 78 percent from years prior.

This session, the Colorado state legislature will consider the Student Loan Servicer Accountability Act. This bill would create a state license for student loan servicers. The act would provide the same basic protections to students and their families that already exist for mortgage, credit card, and business loans. Colorado students deserve the opportunity to pay off their loans fairly and to not be defrauded into inescapable debt.

By Ben Hadley, Boulder