Three Senate Democrats took to college campuses to take questions from student reporters about the In the Red Act, an act to put the United States on a path toward debt-free college education.
Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, held a conference call with reporters from college newspapers throughout the country on Wednesday, Sept. 14 in an effort to push young people to demand that elected officials pass the legislation forward before time runs out.
The In the Red Act will allow students to refinance their loans at a lower rate. It also ensures that in the future students will be able to get a more affordable higher education by increasing Pell Grants to keep pace with rising tuition costs.
U.S. residents currently carry a total student loan debt of $1.3 trillion dollars, and that total is growing everyday. Warren says that congress can act right now to provide relief to the 42 million Americans with student loans.
“Small business owners can refinance their loans, homeowners can refinance their loans, and cities and towns can refinance their loans,” Warren stated. “We believe students should be able to refinance their loans as well.”
If passed, the act will allow students to refinance their loans and extend the number of Pell Grants available to allow college to be more affordable for future generations.
Baldwin fears that students looking to college, such as middle school and high school students, may see someone they know emerging from their higher education experience thousands of dollars in debt, and feel that getting a degree is just not worth the expense.
“Higher education should be a path to prosperity not a path into suffocating student debt,” said Baldwin.
University of West Georgia senior and special education major Emily Moore had to take out loans all four years of college despite receiving academic scholarships.
“College debt has not only taken a toll on me, but it has affected my parents who are helping me pay back my loans as well,” said Moore. “Obtaining a higher education is worth it for me, because I am so passionate about having a career in special education. But it is extremely frustrating that I’ve had to get myself into all this debt.”
Baldwin emphasized a segment of the bill that creates a pact for tuition-free education for the first two years at a community college, technical college or a minority serving institution. Students will then be able to transfer those credits to a four-year institution within the state.
Baldwin continued that some parts of the bill might be enacted quicker than others. In addition, it would depend upon state cooperation, because states would be able to opt-in or out of the tuition free component.
Republicans have previously criticized the bill as being too costly. But, according to Baldwin, the bill is fully paid for, and it will make legislation more affordable by closing special-interest tax loopholes.
The Act received 58 votes in the U.S. Senate, which included every Democrat, three Republicans and two Independents. Introduced in January, the bill has been read twice and has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee. The Committee, chaired by U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has not acted on the bill in nine months.
“The Republicans have no ideas in this space,” Schatz said. “They are denying that this problem exists, which advocates them from any responsibility to try to legislate any solution.”
The three senators urged students to hold the majority accountable during this upcoming November election. They all firmly believe that the In the Red Act is the solution to the astronomical debt crisis in America.
“This is something we can do but we can only do if it we are all pushing hard and pushing in the same direction,” said Warren. “We’re fighting to give hard-working young people a fighting chance to build a future for themselves and for our country, but we cannot do this alone.”