WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Brian Schatz (D-HI), along with several of their Democratic colleagues, 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.
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.
"Higher education is one of the surest paths to economic security and prosperity for Americans, but the astronomical price tag means that ladder of opportunity remains elusive for many students," Booker said. "Millions of students across the country are graduating with an unprecedented amount of student debt, and low-income students are hurt the most. By providing matching federal funds to states, our bill incentivizes states to help students pay for the full cost of a college degree - including the cost of living - without taking on debt,"
"The full cost of college -- including books, room and board, and supplies -- is more than twice as much as tuition. If we are going to be serious about solving the student loan debt crisis we need to focus on the real cost to students and their families," Schatz said. "My bill brings states back to the table and leverages federal dollars to reinvest in public education, and help people cover the full cost of college."
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-Ohio), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
In the House, the bill is cosponsored by U.S. Representative Mark Pocan (WI-02), Nanette Barragán (CA-44), Brendan Boyle (PA-02), Judy Chu (CA-27), Madeleine Dean (PA-04), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Chuy García (IL-04), Jimmy Gomez (CA-34), Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15), Raúl Grijalva (AZ-03), Deb Haaland (NM-01), Katie Hill (CA-25), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-AL), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Carolyn Maloney (NY-12), Gwen S. Moore (WI-04), Grace Napolitano (CA-32), Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), José E. Serrano (NY-15), Mark Takano (CA-41), Bennie G. Thompson (MS-02), Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Peter Welch (VT-AL), and Nydia Velázquez (NY-07).