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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: 392197

Reported Deaths: 5186
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah60432839
Washington42082398
Marion39986507
Clackamas32861382
Lane30179358
Jackson24956361
Deschutes23639185
Umatilla15135182
Linn14704179
Douglas13438292
Josephine10201246
Yamhill9787143
Klamath9072147
Polk8248102
Benton611138
Malheur592790
Coos5693107
Columbia433356
Jefferson420866
Lincoln363852
Union339255
Crook336356
Wasco317046
Clatsop262735
Baker220833
Tillamook217045
Hood River214537
Morrow197825
Curry192439
Harney119933
Grant108515
Lake105616
Wallowa76013
Sherman1913
Gilliam1854
Wheeler1141
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 5087907

Reported Deaths: 74561
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles152858627184
San Diego4074794340
Riverside3880835358
San Bernardino3748555967
Orange3346265736
Sacramento1684922447
Kern1578751804
Fresno1568972259
Santa Clara1522681929
Alameda1252361507
San Joaquin1076041834
Ventura1040841191
Contra Costa1038691046
Stanislaus915481417
Tulare861371099
San Francisco56931672
San Mateo56354629
Monterey52521626
Solano47693358
Santa Barbara47345553
Merced45086668
Sonoma43207412
Placer42204470
Imperial38516773
Kings35221362
San Luis Obispo31511360
Madera26233311
Shasta26113458
Butte25476318
Santa Cruz22268224
Yolo21590260
Marin18495249
El Dorado18325166
Sutter14577186
Napa13424105
Yuba1076389
Tehama10282130
Humboldt10183119
Nevada10029105
Mendocino857799
Lassen797656
San Benito782979
Tuolumne774691
Lake7046110
Amador578366
Siskiyou475855
Glenn457436
Calaveras442288
Del Norte376942
Colusa325921
Inyo256746
Plumas19397
Mono18924
Mariposa160718
Trinity99817
Modoc7725
Sierra2180
Alpine1080
Unassigned810
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