NEWARK, N.J. -- U.S. Senator Cory Booker today joined N.J. Citizen Action, Seth Frotman of the Student Borrower Protection Center, and New Jersey student loan borrowers to address the growing student debt crisis. Last year, U.S. student loan debt hit an unprecedented $1.5 trillion and in New Jersey alone, students carry a staggering $43 billion in student debt. Earlier this week, Senator Booker helped reintroduce the Debt-Free College Act, which would provide incentives to states to increase investments in public higher education through matching grants, offering students a debt-free college education by covering the full cost of a college degree, which also includes the cost of living, textbooks and supplies, and transportation.

With key leaders in the fight against debt crisis, Senator Booker discussed obstacles in the student loan system that unfairly burden our students, particularly low-income students and students of color. Booker discussed practical steps that can be taken to help students, including combatting predatory lending and simplifying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.

"We constantly tell young people that higher education is the key to success. Yet, our current system punishes them for seeking an education through predatory loans and saddling them with outrageous debt," Senator Booker said. "For the millions of students across the country, we must do better and [the Debt Free College Act] does that with a path for achieving a debt-free college degree."

"At Citizen Action we see the fallout from the student debt crisis come through our doors every day in the eyes of young people who cannot buy a home and older borrowers facing foreclosure because of the enormous student debt they have. We are committed to working with Senator Booker in the fight for debt free higher education for all, and to work with advocates like Seth Frotman to help end the nightmare for New Jerseyans and borrowers across the nation who collectively owe $1.5 Trillion in student debt," said Beverly Brown Ruggia, Financial Justice and Community Reinvestment Act Organizer for New Jersey Citizen Action.

"Student debt has become a crisis for families across the country and the State of New Jersey. I applaud Senator Booker and New Jersey Citizen Action for standing up for future generations as well as the millions of American families already trapped in the broken student loan system," said Seth Frotman, Executive Director of the Student Borrower Protection Center, and Former Assistant Director and Ombudsman at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Booker has been a forceful advocate for easing the financial burden students face when obtaining a college degree, especially low-income students and students of color. In the Senate he has introduced a number of bills to expand the affordability and accessibility of a college degree, including bills to simplify the FAFSA form, make it easier to refinance loans, and make college debt-free.

Addressing the $1.5 trillion student debt crisis also requires strengthening and defending existing protections for the student debtors. Toward this end, Booker has also pressed the Department of Education to better protect students defrauded by predatory colleges and resolve the large backlog of student loan forgiveness requests.