Durbin: College Diploma Should Open the Door to Opportunity, Not To Debtors Prison

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – At a press conference today with young Americans struggling with student loan debt, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) discussed actions Congress could take this week to help ease their burden. Tomorrow, the Senate will hold a procedural vote to open debate on the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act. That bill 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 could refinance their student loans. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Al Franken (D-MN), Mark Udall (D-CO), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) also spoke at the press conference this morning.

“Life is about choices. Each of us have made a choice on education, like where we’re going to go to school, what we’re going to study, and how much debt we are going to get into. There’s a choice to be made on the Senate Floor tomorrow morning, and it’s a choice that really is pretty stark,” Durbin said. “Students have found themselves so deeply in debt their lives are compromised. They can’t make the decisions they need to make. This bill is a step forward. There’s more to do, but this is the right step. We’re going to make a choice tomorrow and those of us who are here are going to choose to help college students and their families.”

Video of Durbin’s remarks is available here.


Audio of Durbin’s remarks is available here.

A photo from today’s press conference is available here

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 would save the average borrower $2,000 over the life of their loan. 

Durbin, Warren, and Reed have been working 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.