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Schatz, Pocan Reintroduce Legislation To End Student Loan Debt Crisis

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) and U.S. Representative Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) 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.

“Solving the student loan debt crisis means focusing on the full cost of college – that includes books, room and board, and supplies,” said Senator Schatz. “Our bill brings states back to the table and leverages federal dollars to reinvest in public education, and help students and their families cover the real cost of college.”

“Every student in America deserves the opportunity to get a college education without student debt crushing them years after graduating,” said Representative Pocan. “The Debt-Free College Act creates a federal-state partnership that would make debt-free college a reality for students within five years. Student debt isn’t just tuition—it’s books, housing, supplies and food, and this bill reflects the reality of those costs. If we truly believe in the value of our education system, then we should be making it easier for students to pursue higher education, not financially impossible. This bill is an integral first step to ensure that college is accessible to every person in this country.”

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. The bicameral legislation, first introduced in 2018, was the first proposal to go beyond free tuition, and ensure that students leave college without the financial burden of student loan debt.

According to the Education Data Initiative, 72 percent of student debt holders believe their student loan debt will delay homeownership. A Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System survey found that almost 50 percent of student loan borrowers who struggle to repay their loans said that they would miss or make partial student loan payments in an effort to cover a $400 emergency expense, while 13 percent said they would skip a rent or mortgage payment and 22 percent said that would skip a utility bill.

The Senate bill is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), and Peter Welch (D-Vt.)

In the House, the bill is cosponsored by U.S. Representatives Brendan Boyle (D-Penn.), Troy Carter (D-La.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), and Nikema Williams (D-Ga.).

The Debt-Free College Act is endorsed by the Center for Law and Social Policy, Institute for Higher Education Policy, Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, Young Invincibles, The Education Trust, and Council for Opportunity in Education.