Sen. Merkley Announces Debt-Free College Act

The legislation is meant to reverse the growing student debt crisis in the United States.

Posted: Apr 3, 2018 6:55 PM

KLAMATH FALLS, ORE. – Today Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley joined Oregon Institute of Technology President Nagi Naganathan and Klamath Community College President Roberto Gutierrez in pushing for the Debt-Free College Act, legislation that will reverse the growing student debt crisis in Oregon and across the United States. The bill creates a path for students to be able to attend public colleges without taking on debt.

“I was the first in my family to go to college, so I know firsthand how important the opportunity to pursue higher education is to the American Dream. But right now, crushing debt is putting that dream in jeopardy for far too many American students,” Senator Merkley said. “In the wealthiest nation on earth, our students shouldn’t have to mortgage their future just to get a college degree. It’s time to put the ‘public’ back in public education and ensure that every student who wants to can pursue higher education debt-free.”

“The growing student loan debt issue is one that we do need to tackle in Oregon and nationally,” said Oregon Tech president Nagi Naganathan.

KCC president Dr. Roberto Gutierrez says, “Twenty percent of Klamath County residents live at or below poverty level, and taking on debt to attend college is not a viable option for them. Financial barriers to education must be removed if we want to support all factions of our communities. Too much is at stake to not support this bill.”

If signed into law, 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.

Beyond tuition and fees, the total cost of attendance—room and board, books and supplies, and other expenses—has forced 44 million Americans to take on debt to cover their financial need. More than half of Oregon residents who attend Oregon Tech and Klamath Community College rely on borrowing. College debt has increased 170 percent since 2006 and now exceeds $1.4 trillion dollars, which is second only to mortgage debt and surpasses even credit card debt.

In Oregon, 63 percent of students in the class of 2015 graduated with debt, averaging $27,697 per borrower. A 2014 analysis by The Oregonian found that over a ten-year period, Oregon students and their families borrowed more than $12 billion—more than double the amount from a decade earlier.

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, student loan debt is responsible for 35 percent of the decline in homeownership since 2007. The percentage of younger people who reported owning a business was cut in half between 2010 and 2013. Pew Research Center found that about 50 percent of student borrowers say their loans increase their risk of defaulting on other bills.

The bill is co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and by U.S. Representatives Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.), Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.), Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-District of Columbia), Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Gwen Moore (D-Wis), Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.), Rick Nolan (D-Minn.), Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), and Peter Welch (D-Vt.).

The bill is also endorsed by the National Education Association (NEA), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Demos, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Young Invincibles, Credo Action, Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP), Council for Opportunity in Education (COE), National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), UnidosUS, and California State Treasurer John Chiang.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 133205

Reported Deaths: 1800
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah28337458
Washington18644171
Marion16172238
Clackamas11642138
Lane8272108
Jackson689285
Umatilla676568
Deschutes495236
Yamhill318245
Malheur313152
Linn310846
Polk244640
Klamath242838
Josephine173533
Jefferson170225
Benton169514
Douglas167743
Union111416
Wasco107123
Columbia104318
Lincoln99117
Hood River95121
Coos93715
Morrow93310
Clatsop6865
Crook61010
Baker5685
Tillamook3652
Curry3245
Lake2305
Grant2131
Harney1754
Wallowa963
Gilliam511
Sherman470
Wheeler201
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 2988326

Reported Deaths: 33589
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles101466213848
San Bernardino2512131560
Riverside2394122517
San Diego2117872103
Orange2108132367
Santa Clara926251065
Kern84644565
Fresno81294932
Sacramento791221080
Alameda66583757
Ventura60368412
San Joaquin56642748
Contra Costa51573446
Stanislaus42337739
Tulare40655501
Monterey35418250
San Mateo31805294
San Francisco28853254
Imperial25140463
Solano24732105
Santa Barbara24149231
Sonoma23607234
Merced23492296
Kings19125133
Placer16995173
San Luis Obispo15466128
Madera13193130
Santa Cruz12026113
Marin11482153
Yolo10406131
Shasta9594117
Butte9359121
El Dorado757544
Sutter756077
Napa735639
Lassen509413
San Benito488243
Yuba481827
Tehama397142
Tuolumne330438
Nevada314473
Mendocino307631
Amador298629
Lake250428
Humboldt229424
Glenn189419
Colusa16919
Calaveras159623
Siskiyou140813
Mono10834
Inyo92429
Del Norte8532
Plumas5735
Modoc3793
Mariposa3444
Trinity3024
Alpine730
Sierra700
Unassigned00
Medford
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Medford
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