The United States has $1.3 trillion of aggregate student debt, and the number continues to grow.
In January, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, presented the In the Red Act, a major reform to address college affordability and put the U.S. on a path toward debt-free college.
Baldwin, Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, reached out to college newspapers throughout the country Wednesday to participate in a press conference in attempts to push this legislation forward in the short time Congress has left in this session.
“This is how we make change,” Warren said to start the conference.
This is a fiscally responsible approach to taking on the national student debt crisis, Warren said.
The In the Red Act will allow student loan borrowers to refinance outstanding debt at lower rates, increase Pell Grants to keep pace with rising costs and make a new investment in community college.
Additionally, the legislation will support keeping colleges accountable to ensure students graduate with high-value degrees and credentials.
The In the Red Act is fully paid for and would make college more affordable by closing special interest tax loopholes, Baldwin said.
“Higher education should be a path to prosperity,” Baldwin said. “These students are running out of time and options.”
The act focuses not only on being able to refinance the current student debt but also allowing college to be more affordable, Baldwin said.
Students looking toward their higher education, such as middle and high schoolers, are currently looking at thousands of dollars in debt.
“At this point, it’s the matter if the debt is even payable, which, in many cases, it is not,” Schatz said. “One third of borrowers are 90 days late on their loans.”
One of Baldwin’s favorite parts of the act includes the push to invest in community college.
With the act, students will have the opportunity to attend community college, technical school or a minority institution free of charge for two years and would then be able to transfer with credits to a four-year institution within the state.
States would be able to opt-in or out of this part of the act.
As of the 2014-15 year, approximately 70 percent of IU students received student financial aid, according to University Institutional Research and Reporting.
Financial aid includes loans for students and their parents, gift aid and work study.
This amounts to $554,925,986 just on the Bloomington campus.
“We are dealing with hard working young people that need to demand a change,” Warren said.
Looking toward the November general election, the three senators urged all students to hold the majority accountable. The cost of college is really spiraling out of control and is growing faster than all other consumer goods, Schatz said.
“Like climate change, Republicans are denying that this problem exists at all,” Schatz said.
In the Senate, the act received 58 votes. This included every Democrat, two independents and three Republicans.
The act was officially introduced to Congress on March 15, has been read twice and was referred to the Committee on Finance.
“Degrees push us forward, but debt pushes us back,” Warren said.
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