Durbin Calls For Senate Action on Student Loan Debt Crisis, Access To Affordable College Education

Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act would help 1.1 million Illinoisans lower their rates, save average borrower $2,000

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) stood with Senate Democrats at a press conference today to call on the Senate to address student loan debt in America, and actions Congress could take to help ease the burden for working families and students. Durbin is a co-sponsor of the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act, a bill that would allow those with outstanding student loan debt to refinance at the lower interest rates offered to new borrowers this past academic year. If passed, over one million Illinoisans would be allowed to refinance their student loans. Other Senators in attendance today include Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Cory Booker (D-NJ).

“I’ve heard from so many people across Illinois about this issue. They say student loan debt is preventing them from buying a car, having their own place to live, and even getting married and having children,” Durbin said. “Student debt has reached a breaking point in this country. If Congress fails to address this fast-growing crisis soon, we risk placing a burden on hard-working students and families for doing the right thing: getting a college degree.”

There are nearly 40 million Americans with outstanding student loans, nearly 1.7 million in Illinois. The average student loan debt for Illinois students in the class of 2012 was $28,028. Many of these borrowers have interest rates of nearly 7 percent or higher for undergraduate loans. The Bank on Students Emergency Refinancing Act could lower payments for millions of those individuals by hundreds or thousands of dollars a year.

Durbin has teamed up with Senators Warren and Reed to work together on efforts to build broad support in the Senate for legislative action to reduce new student loan debt and make it easier for millions of working families to manage the student loan debt they already have.  In addition to the Bank of Students Emergency Refinancing Act, the three introduced the Student Loan Borrower Bill of Rights Act and the Protect Student Borrowers Act of 2013.  The Student Loan Borrower Bill of Rights Act would ensure struggling student loan borrowers are treated fairly and understand the full range of repayment options and resources available to them. The Protect Student Borrowers Act of 2013 would help make institutions of higher education more accountable for student indebtedness by requiring institutions to assume some of the risk of a student loan default. 

Last year, Durbin and Senator Al Franken (D-MN) introduced legislation designed to help students manage costs by making high quality textbooks easily accessible to students, professors and the public for free.  This bill, known as the Affordable College Textbook Act, would create a competitive grant program for institutions of higher education, working with professors and other organizations, to create and expand the use of textbooks that can be made available online and licensed under terms that grant the public the right to freely access, customize and distribute the material, also known as “open textbooks”.