If we want hard work to pay off, we have to get the cost of college under control.
When Connie and I went to college, a part-time job was often enough to put you through school. The idea that you could afford that today without mountains of debt would be laughable, if it weren’t one of the biggest economic problems facing the next generation.
Last week, I talked with Melanie Drews, a student at the University of Akron, who works two jobs to pay for school and will still face student loan bills when she graduates.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Americans should be able to go to a public university and graduate debt-free.
In order to do that, we have to make college more affordable.
That’s why I introduced the Debt-Free College Act, to give states a dollar-for-dollar federal match when they invest in higher education.
Under the partnership, states would receive a one-to-one federal match for their state higher education spending, in exchange for a commitment to help students pay for the full cost of attendance. The match would help cover any costs for students — including tuition, room and board, books, supplies, and other expenses — above the family’s expected maximum contribution, without having to take on debt.
Of course we also need to fix this for the millions of Americans who are already staring at huge loan bills.
It’s why I’m also introducing legislation to allow more Americans to refinance their student loans on better terms. It would allow qualifying student borrowers to refinance their student loans down to the rates currently offered to new federal borrowers, and allow those with private loans to refinance into the Federal Direct Loan program.
Finally, we also know that with the high cost of higher education, many students face unique challenges. I’m introducing the Housing for Homeless Students Act to ensure homeless students, including veterans, can access affordable housing while pursuing their education.
Right now, full-time students aren’t eligible for the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program, and they can actually lose their scholarships and grants if they switch to part-time education to get affordable housing.
These Americans are working hard to get an education and build a better life for themselves. They shouldn’t be punished for it by taking away their affordable housing or their scholarships.
For hard work to pay off for all Ohioans, we have to get the cost of college under control.
Sherrod Brown is the senior U.S. senator from Ohio.