Making College More Affordable

As our economy becomes increasingly competitive and high tech, the need for a college degree or advanced training becomes increasingly necessary to enter the workforce. Unfortunately, rising tuition costs are forcing more and more Americans to take out student loans, with the average college senior holding  $30,100 in debt.  In Michigan, that’s 63% of college seniors. Student debt has eclipsed even credit card debt, and is second only to home mortgages. We must do more to slow these trends and ensure that college is affordable for all.

According to the most recent report by Bureau of Labor Statistics (April 2017), the unemployment rate for those with a high school diploma was 5.2 percent compared to those with bachelor’s degree and higher at 2.7 percent. Employees with a bachelor’s degree out-earn employees with a high school diploma by nearly $25,000 annually.

While the cost of college is rising, the Trump Administration is trying to make it harder for students to take out loans and repay them in a fashion that best suits their post-college income. The Presiden’ts 2018 budget proposal included cuts to student loans that specifically provide assistance to low-income students, and the consolidation of five separate income-driven loan repayment programs into one option. I’m strongly opposed to such changes. We should be making it easier students – especially those from lower income families – to obtain higher education.

I am supportive of various proposals in Congress to help students better manage their debt. For example, I have been a cosponsor of the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act for the past several Congresses. This legislation would allow students who borrowed at a higher rate a one-time opportunity to refinance their student loans at a lower rate, just like homeowners have the opportunity to refinance a mortgage.

Congress is due to re-consider the Higher Education Act (HEA), which governs federal involvement in colleges and universities. It is my hope that such commonsense proposals will be included in any reconsideration of that legislation.

This Congress, I have again joined my colleagues to cosponsor legislation that would help students saddled with debt manage their finances. The Bank on Student Emergency Loan Refinancing Act [H.R. 1434] which would allow students to refinance their Federal loans at the lower rates that were available to new borrowers in the 2013-2014 school year. The bill would also provide students an avenue that would allow them to pay off their private loans and instead take out public loans so those borrowers can enjoy the benefits of federal loans, like consolidation and forbearance.

House Republicans have continued to propose steep cuts in their budgets. I have continuously joined colleagues in the House and Senate to ensure these harmful cuts do not become law. Steep reductions would unfairly burden many students from low- and middle- income families. For many, this funding assistance makes the difference between attending college or dropping out because of a lack of access to private loans.

We should be investing more – not less – in our students.

(Updated October 2017)