At a Capitol Hill event with supporters behind the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act, Sen. Al Franken told a story about meeting with Joelle Strangler, a student at the University of Minnesota.
Strangler’s mother was a lifelong teacher who desperately wanted her kids to go to college. To help with the rising costs of college tuition, she left teaching to get a higher paying job in hopes that she could help her children avoid the massive debt most graduates face.
“This is about our educational system. We lost a great teacher because she can make more money in the private sector,” said Franken. “Joelle is now a junior, student body president, and she will still graduate with a mountain of debt.”
Franken is a cosponsor of the Bank on Student Act, which help millions of Americans with existing federal student loans and private loans in good standing to refinance at a lower rate to make repayment more manageable.
“This is putting a damper on our entire economy. There’s over $1.2 trillion in debt, and this is simply saying, ‘Let’s let people refinance, just like you can refinance your car loan, just like you can refinance a home loan. Why not allow graduates to refinance their student loans?’”
Currently, there are forty million Americans that have student loan debt. More than 70 percent of America’s students borrow money to attend college, and the average student graduates from college owning nearly $30,000. The act would allow an estimated 25 million student loan borrowers to refinance at a lower rate.
In order to offset the cost of the proposed legislation, the bill will implement the “Buffet Rule,” a minimum tax rate of 30 percent for individuals with incomes of $1 million or more.
“It’s just an approach to make this fair. It’s for people who make millions a year or even billions a year, asking them to pay what the rest of us pay, what middle class Americans pay,” said Franken. “This is just fair. It’s the least we can do.”
When the bill was introduced this summer, it failed to pass in the Senate, falling short by just two votes with support from both sides of the aisle.
Chelsey Herrig, a Minnesota native and NEA Student Chair, was at Capitol Hill to lend her support to the legislation. Herrig was there on behalf of the 60,000 future educators she represents, many who will or already have incurred substantial student loan debt.
“Many students are entering college who want to be teachers, and they’re really passionate about education. When they see that they might never be able to pay off their student debt, they get discouraged,” said Herrig. “We often lose very passionate educators that would be awesome in the field.”
What’s really on the minds of her student members, said Herrig, is how to make college affordable for the students that will be in their classrooms after they graduate.
“We’re always looking out for our future students. That’s why we’re going into it teaching, we want to make a difference in our student’s lives,” said Herrig.
“We want to be sure to protect them. We have the voice and we need to speak up for them.”
The vote for the bill is expected sometime in the next two weeks. In the meantime, tell your Senator that America’s students deserve degrees, not debt!