Rep. Cicilline to submit college-debt relief bill

Providence Journal
Sunday, August 28, 2016

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Rep. David Cicilline on Thursday morning said he will soon introduce legislation aimed at making college more affordable for all Americans. The announcement follows a report earlier this month by a private educational group that Rhode Island college graduates carry the second-highest school-debt burden in the U.S.

“Millions of young Americans are being forced to either take on massive amounts of debt or give up on the pursuit of a college degree,” Cicilline said. “This is completely wrong. Higher education must be accessible and affordable to all who are willing to work hard, and not a privilege for the wealthy.”

The congressman said he will introduce the Making College More Affordable Act when the U.S. House reconvenes on Sept. 6. He expressed hope that the legislation will not fall victim to the political gridlock that has become particularly severe in this presidential election year.

“There are many issues that divide Republicans and Democrats in Washington, but this shouldn’t be one of them,” Cicilline said. “The Making College More Affordable Act will ensure that more young people have access to college education and the resources they need to get ahead. It reforms and simplifies our broken student loan system and moves us closer to making college a right for everyone, not a privilege for a few.”

In a media release, Cicilline spelled out his legislation’s five main features. The bill, he said, would:

- Eliminate interest on student loans.

- Create automatic payroll deduction for repayment of loans, providing for “monthly payments in the same way that Social Security contributions are deducted today.”

- Lower the required monthly payment for undergraduate student loans “from the current range of 10 to 20 percent of a borrower’s after-tax income to a starting contribution of four percent of pre-tax income, with payments increasing for incomes more than $100,000 annually.”

- Shift from the current range of 10 to 25 years on a loan to “a clearly defined 30-year loan, the same as a home mortgage.”

- Allow 30 million or more people now holding student loans to refinance debt by entering into a new system.

In its study released earlier in August, the private group LendEDU found that recent graduates of Rhode Island colleges who have borrowed money to finance their education leave campus with an average student loan debt of $35,169 — second-highest of any state.

Graduates of Connecticut colleges ranked highest, with an average student-loan debt of $36,865. With an average debt of $18,772, Utah college graduates ranked 50th. The figures are for undergraduate students who borrowed money and received diplomas in 2015, the last year for which data was available.

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