Durbin Reintroduces Bill To End Student Loan Debt Crisis

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), along with Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) and U.S. Representative Mark Pocan (D-WI-02), and a group of 42 members of Congress, reintroduced 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. In 2017, 61 percent of Illinois students who attended a public or private non-profit, four-year institution graduated with debt.  On average, these students held $29, 214 in student loan debt.

“Cumulative student loan debt in America amounts to more than $1.5 trillion. It has led many young people to put off buying cars and houses, starting families, and saving for retirement,” Durbin said. “If we don’t address student debt, we risk losing a generation of economic growth.  I’m proud to reintroduce the Debt-Free College Act with Senator Schatz today to give students a chance at quality higher education without debt.”

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 $1.5 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.

The bill is co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

“American students deserve a real shot at achieving their dreams, not a ‘debt sentence’ if they choose to go to college. Unfortunately, too many students have had those dreams dashed by mountains of student debt and by rogue loan servicers hounding them into bankruptcy, which is why 11 of our members have brought a class action suit against Navient. They’re shouldering $1.7 trillion of debt, often paying hundreds of dollars a month, partly because 41 states still spend less on higher education than they did before the recession. This pathbreaking bill will help stoke new investment instead of creating more austerity, which will help students graduate debt-free. We hope that Congress, state governments and higher education institutions will work together to turn this bill into urgently needed law,” said Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers.

The bill is endorsed by the American Federation of Teachers, the Center for Law and Social Policy, Council for Opportunity in Education, Demos, Institute for Higher Education Policy, Jumpstart, NAACP, Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, Social Security Works, and Young Invincibles.