The student debt crisis has been one of the main topics of discussion in the realm of higher education. Currently, there is $1.48 trillion of student loan debt with 44.2 million Americans shouldering it. This problem is forcing those who are struggling to pay their bills and handle their student loan payments to delay major life events such as buying a home and getting married. Moreover, this is one of the factors contributing to why millennial adults aging 25 to 35 years old are remaining at home with their parents—more than previous generations.
Many have heard this story before but have yet to see any tangible solutions to this problem. As noted by Mark Huelsman, a senior policy analyst at Demos, the cost of education has continued to rise due to the high demand. Simultaneously, he states that states have not done their due diligence to increase public investment, particularly grant-aid for low-income students, to offset the costs of college. However, a new bill may prove to be the first stepping stone on the path to addressing this problem seriously.
The Debt-Free College Act of 2018
Introduced on March 22, the Debt-Free College Act of 2018 was sponsored by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI). It has gain support by more than 32 congressmen and groups like the National Education Association. If passed, this bill would “provide a 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.”
This federal and state partnership could potentially resolve the decline in funding allocated on a per-student basis. Huelsman goes on to say that states that participate in the “[partnership] would commit to maintaining funding for public 2- and 4-year colleges and providing need-based grants to cover students’ cost of attendance that their families cannot afford, with the goal of advancing debt-free college for all in-state students within 5 years of joining the partnership.” Moreover, it would allow participating states to use up to 10 percent of their federal grant toward improving educational quality.
So far, the bill has only been introduced and remains at the first stage in the process. The next steps would include passing the Senate, passing the House, sending it the President, then it becoming official law as outlined on Congress.gov.
To garner enough support for it to become a reality, it would require bipartisan support. However, with the Trump Administration’s desire to end the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, many believe that this is an indicator that any such bipartisan support would be difficult to achieve.