US senator introduces Debt-Free College Act

Bill could change the way we look at the student debt crisis in America

Karly Kaufman
Staff Writer

United States Senator Brian Schatz, a Democrat from Hawai’i, and 32 other leaders introduced a bill called the Debt-Free College Act in the hopes of reversing the crippling debt students are facing in the country today.

According to Schatz’s governmental website, “the Debt-Free College Act would establish a state-federal partnership that provides a dollar-for-dollar federal match to state high education appropriations in exchange for a commitment to help students pay for the full cost of attendance without having to take on debt.”

Since the recession of the late 2007 and mid-2009, states have cut their investments in public schools, only to see rising costs in higher education institutions. From the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, “student loan debt is responsible for 35 percent of the decline in homeownership since 2007” (Vox). The country’s student debt has increased by 170 percent since 2006 and exceeds over $1.4 trillion dollars. This surpasses credit card debt and is second to mortgage debt. The Pew Research Center found that 50 percent of student borrowers say their loans increase their risk of defaulting on other bills.

All 32 co-sponsors want to lessen the debt for students attending two and four-year colleges and universities by partnering with the state and federal government. Democratic Senator Cory Booker, from New Jersey, states, “Our bill provides our lowest-income students with the opportunity to attend state colleges and universities debt-free.” Other Democratic senators, such as Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, have stated, “In the wealthiest nation on earth, our students shouldn’t have to mortgage their future just to get a college degree,” and that students should “have a chance of making it through college without getting crushed by debt.”

Comparing it to both Hillary Clinton’s and Bernie Sanders’s college affordability plans, Schatz’s bill points to debt-free instead of tuition-free, where the difference includes the cost of living as well as tuition. When introduced, Senator Sanders’s tuition-free bill would only cover the cost of tuition which averages to $8,900. According to Schatz’s estimation, Sanders doesn’t include the cost of tuition, books, housing, and food, which equates to $20,000. Tuition is only 45 percent of the cost.

However, the cost of this act is quite substantial. For the first year of the federal-state coalition it would cost $80.1 billion and $95.4 billion to meet the goal of students attending debt-free colleges.

Photo: (David Bassey/MSU Reporter)

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