East Hawaii News

Schatz Joins Group to Unveil College Afforadability Legislation

January 21, 2016, 3:16 PM HST
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United States Senator Brian Schatz. United State Senate photo.

United States Senator Brian Schatz. United State Senate photo.

Senator Brian Schatz joined a group of Senate Democrats Thursday to formally unveil a new legislative package and campaign, dubbed #InTheRed, aimed at pushing Congress to address college affordability in 2016 and putting America on a path toward debt-free college.

The legislative package, which was first announced at a press conference in the United States Capitol building with Senate Democrats and dozens of students and advocates, is currently comprised of three Senate bills that would make two years of community college free, address the significant loss in value of Pell Grants by adjusting them for inflation, and allowing borrowers to refinance their existing student loans at lower rates.

Thursday’s announcement follows President Obama’s final State of the Union address, on which more than two-dozen Senate Democrats brought attention to the #InTheRed campaign by bringing a local student as their guest to the speech, promoting the campaign in local and national media, posting photos, videos, and graphics to social media, and more.

“With over a third of borrowers delinquent on their loans by 90 days or more, student loan debt now exceeds $1.2 trillion dollars.  This level of college debt is not sustainable,” said Senator Schatz. “This is not just a student issue, it is a family issue that affects parents and grandparents who often times help pay those bills. We can’t continue to allow students and their families to be saddled with crushing debt simply for wanting to earn a higher education. That is why I support making college debt-free for all.”

Last year, Senator Schatz introduced the College Affordability and Innovation Act with Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut.  Their legislation would make college more affordable for students in Hawai‘i and across the country by prioritizing innovation and tying federal funding for colleges to their ability to meet affordability and student outcomes goals.

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In April, Senator Schatz also led a bicameral resolution to support efforts to ensure that students have access to debt-free higher education.

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Senate Democrats also announced Thursday that as part of the #InTheRed college affordability campaign throughout 2016, Senators will be visiting college campuses and meeting with Americans saddled with student loan debt as a way of highlighting the urgency for Congress to act to pass this legislative package and the overall need to put America on a path toward debt-free college. Senators will share the stories they hear on Capitol Hill over the coming months and urge their Republican colleagues to support this legislative package.

Within the legislative package there are three pieces of Senate legislation that seek to:

  • Make two years of community college tuition-free
  • Allow borrowers to refinance student loans at lower rates
  • Ensure Pell Grants keep pace with rising costs

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