(CNN) -- The first thing we need to do to get serious about student debt? Stop calling it "student debt."
"College debt" or "education debt" might work. Anything but student debt -- because not just students but entire families are paying the cost of our broken system for funding higher education.
Case in point: The other day, one of the top stories on CNN.com was about two grieving parents who lost their child but are still stuck with her student loan bills.
This story represents so much about what is wrong with our system of financing higher education -- not to mention our national priorities.
The full story is worth reading, but here is the short version: Steve Mason co-signed $100,000 worth of student loans for his daughter, Lisa. When she passed away, her parents were stuck with the debt, which had ballooned to nearly $200,000.
And now, these two parents, who took in three young grandchildren, are almost utterly without options.
If it were not for a George W. Bush-era law limiting financial protections for consumers, bankruptcy would be their last resort. But today, thanks to provisions in the 2005 Bankruptcy Bill, private student loans are one of the only forms of debt that cannot be discharged under any circumstances.
If these were federal student loans with lower interest rates, the amount the Masons owe might not have ballooned quite so much. More importantly, they would have access to repayment plans or even some token financial assistance. But theirs are private loans.
And if conservatives had not waged a war to defund higher education to pay for tax breaks for their favored donors, perhaps the Masons and others like them might have avoided this tragedy altogether.
Instead, our young people are graduating off a cliff. America's global competitiveness is at risk. And our economy is struggling as families young and old neglect other purchases to pay down a combined more than $1 trillion in education debt.
Of course, this problem is solvable.
[Read full post on CNN]