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.

Confirmed Cases: 3949

Reported Deaths: 148
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Multnomah104558
Marion90925
Washington69517
Clackamas29410
Deschutes1200
Linn1159
Umatilla1123
Polk9610
Lane672
Yamhill657
Jackson600
Benton555
Clatsop450
Klamath410
Coos310
Malheur280
Josephine261
Douglas250
Jefferson240
Wasco181
Columbia160
Hood River120
Morrow120
Lincoln90
Tillamook60
Curry60
Union60
Crook50
Wallowa20
Sherman10
Grant10
Harney10
Baker10
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 96400

Reported Deaths: 3769
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles460232116
Riverside7004292
San Diego6701249
Orange5469133
San Bernardino4365176
Alameda287493
Santa Clara2652139
San Francisco238640
Kern187129
San Mateo183376
Tulare164175
Santa Barbara155112
Fresno148222
Contra Costa133637
Sacramento130256
Imperial127423
Ventura91230
San Joaquin75233
Kings6472
Stanislaus64628
Sonoma5004
Solano45520
Monterey4138
Marin40314
Merced2616
San Luis Obispo2591
Santa Cruz2002
Yolo19422
Placer1859
Napa1013
Humboldt932
Madera842
El Dorado780
San Benito722
Nevada411
Sutter402
Del Norte370
Shasta364
Butte340
Mono341
Yuba281
Mendocino210
Inyo191
Mariposa151
Calaveras130
Lake120
Glenn120
Amador100
Siskiyou61
Colusa50
Lassen40
Plumas40
Tuolumne30
Tehama31
Alpine20
Trinity10
Sierra10
Unassigned00
Medford
Clear
80° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 80°
Brookings
Clear
63° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 63°
Crater Lake
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 75°
Grants Pass
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 81°
Klamath Falls
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 75°
Hot week, stormy weekend
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events

Latest Video

Image

Tuesday, May 26 afternoon weather

Image

Wellness during COVID-19

Image

Anywhere Learning: Read-aloud - Sarah, Plain and Tall, Part 1

Image

Anywhere Learning: Beginning Ukulele

Image

Anywhere Learning: Science and Slime!

Image

Anywhere Learning: Oregon Coast Sea Life

Image

Tuesday, May 26 morning weather

Image

Memorial Day Ceremony in Grants Pass

Image

A grand opening in the midst of a pandemic

Image

Pistole returns 'home' to Raiders softball