Democrat Senator Jeff Merkley announced he’s supporting the Debt-Free College Act, legislation that promises to reverse the growth of student debt. According to Merkley’s office, the act will create a path for students to attend public colleges without taking on significant debt.
Merkley said in part, “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.”
Oregon Institute of Technology President Nagi Naganathan said, “Debt has become a significant factor in students’ college-going decisions, especially for our most underserved populations. We applaud Senator Merkley and other sponsors of this bill for working towards a state/federal partnership solution that can reduce borrowing and its impacts on young Americans.”
The Debt-Free College Act would create a state and federal partnership that would provide a federally-funded dollar-for-dollar match to help students pay for attending public colleges.
Vox Media reports the plan, introduced by Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI), could come with a price tag of over $80 billion for the first year. This is because unlike other plans to address student debt, Schatz’s aims to cover not only tuition fees but cost-of-living expenses as well. Supporters say addressing all costs associated with public college education will help lower-income students.