Durbin Speaks At Community College Forum, Discusses Student Loan Debt, For-Profit Colleges, And Affordable Textbooks

[WASHINGTON, DC] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today spoke to leaders from community colleges around the country who were in Washington, D.C. for the Association of Community College Trustees annual national legislative summit. Durbin discussed higher education issues including student loan debt, for-profit college oversight, and affordable textbooks. A photo from the meeting is available HERE.

“If we expect our economy to grow, a generation of students cannot be saddled with crushing debt,” Durbin said.  “The path to affordable, quality higher education leads students to community colleges.  Sadly, many students are steered toward for-profit colleges which overcharge, saddle students and their families with crushing debt and hand them worthless degrees.  We need to enlist high school counselors and teachers in warning graduates about these predatory for-profit schools.”

Last week, Senator Durbin joined U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD) in introducing legislation that would put into law an interagency committee that is tasked with improving coordination in federal and state oversight of the for-profit college industry. In October, the Department of Education announced it would create an interagency oversight committee based on the Proprietary Education Oversight Coordination Improvement Act - introduced by Durbin, Cummings and U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) - which aimed to improve enforcement of federal laws and regulations while increasing accountability of for-profit colleges to students and taxpayers.  Last week’s bill would codify those efforts and ensure the task force is providing useful information to policymakers and parents and students. More information on the Durbin-Cummings bill is available HERE.

Durbin has been working since 2009 to protect students from the predatory practices of the for-profit college industry.  In November 2013, he introduced legislation in the Senate that would help put an end to the for-profit industry’s predatory marketing campaigns and aggressive recruiting of veterans, servicemembers and their families.  The Protecting Our Students and Taxpayers (POST) Act, which U.S. Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN) introduced in the House of Representatives, would eliminate the loophole that allows these publicly traded companies to receive more than 90% of their revenue from the federal government. The President’s FY2016 budget would close this costly loophole.

The average student spent $1,200 on college books and supplies during the 2012-13 academic year.  The cost of a new textbook has increased 82% over the last decade, according to GAO.  A survey from USPIRG finds that 65% of students decided not to buy a required textbook due to the cost and 94% of those students worried it would have a negative impact on their academic success.

Last Congress, Durbin and Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) introduced the Affordable College Textbook Act which would help students manage costs by making high quality textbooks easily accessible to students, professors and the public for free. The bill 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”. Durbin plans to introduce the bill again this Congress.

Earlier in the day, Durbin met with the President of the Illinois Education Association Cinda Klickna to discuss the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and early learning programs. A photo of that meeting is available HERE.