Durbin Joins 32 Members Of Congress In Introducing Bill To Stem Student Debt Relief

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today joined Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) and 31 other members of Congress in introducing the Debt-Free College Act, legislation that will reverse the growing student debt crisis in the United States.  The bill restores a path to affordable college by providing states incentives through matching grants to increase investments in public higher education and provide students with debt-free college.  According to estimates, Illinois would be one of ten states that would meet the goal of debt-free for all students in the first year if all states joined the partnership and maintained current appropriation levels. 

“Unfortunately, for too many students these days, the payoff of a college education isn’t being realized,” said Durbin.  “They find themselves in default with their credit scores ruined and debt that follows them to the grave.  This trend has got to stop.  I’m proud to introduce the Debt-Free College Act with Senator Schatz today, which is just one piece of legislation designed to enable students to attend public college debt-free and complete an important stepping stone for many on the path to the American Dream.”

If signed into law, the Debt-Free College Act would establish a state-federal partnership that provides a dollar-for-dollar federal match to state higher education appropriations in exchange for a commitment to help students pay for the full cost of attendance without having to take on debt.

Beyond tuition and fees, the total cost of attendance—room and board, books and supplies, and other expenses—has forced 44 million Americans to take on debt to cover their financial need. College debt has increased 170 percent since 2006 and now exceeds $1.4 trillion dollars, which is second only to mortgage debt and surpasses even credit card debt.  

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, student loan debt is responsible for 35 percent of the decline in homeownership since 2007. The percentage of younger people who reported owning a business was cut in half between 2010 and 2013. Pew Research Center found that about 50 percent of student borrowers say their loans increase their risk of defaulting on other bills.

Along with Durbin and Schatz, the bill is co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and by 23 members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The bill is also endorsed by National Education Association (NEA), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Demos, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Young Invincibles, Credo Action, Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP), Council for Opportunity in Education (COE), National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), UnidosUS, and California State Treasurer John Chiang.