On March 30, 2022 U.S. Rep Rosa DeLauro introduced the Affordable Loans for Any Student Act to the Senate. This proposed piece of legislation is one of DeLauro’s efforts to make a college education more affordable to students throughout America.
The Affordable Loans Act addresses the growing need for affordable loan repayment plans among federal student loan borrowers nationwide. It offers either a fixed repayment plan, in which borrowers pay predetermined monthly increments over ten years, or an income-based plan where they pay 10 percent of their income until the debt is paid off or until 20 years of payments are made. The bill also prevents the accumulation of unpaid interest, which can add thousands of dollars to the total sum of a borrower’s payments. As with many of DeLauro’s student loan policies, including the expansion of meal waivers, and Pell Grants, this act strives to make college more affordable for all students.
In addition to changing the way in which loans are paid back and lowering their interest rates, DeLauro aims to add more funds to the federal student loan budget. The majority of this money would be directed toward programs such as the Federal Pell Grant Program, as well as awarding more financial aid and loan forgiveness. Pell Grants are awarded to students who, according to the Federal Student Aid office, “display exceptional financial need.” Unlike loans, they do not need to be repaid.
Colleges’ rising prices give young people across the country the incentive to take out loans; often, students will spend far more time repaying their debts than attending college. In Connecticut alone, over 500,000 student loan borrowers have amassed a total debt of roughly $19.7 billion. Sarah Tarrant Madden, Associate Director of College Counseling at Hopkins, remarked on how the changing economy impacts college decisions: “Historically, the cost of higher education has always been an investment, but a more reasonable one that could be defrayed by a student’s part-time job or summer work. In the last 40 years, the cost of a year of private and public colleges has risen exponentially, while the median family income in the country has only risen modestly.” Madden continues, “As an educator, I hope that all interested students have the opportunity to attend college, but if this trend of costs increasing with no additional grants or debt relief continues, many bright and motivated students could be priced out of the opportunity. I hope our politicians, economists, and higher education leaders come up with a feasible solution.”
The price of student loans is a factor that many students and families need to consider when applying to colleges. Now, over their four years of education, students can borrow a maximum of $60,000 from the federal government. Erika Chapin, Hopkins’ Director of College Counseling, commented on the role of loans during the application process: “This is a lot of money for most people, and can take decades to repay. Students and families often need to determine how much debt they are willing to take on in order to finance a college education. We talk with students and families about which colleges and universities might offer scholarships or grants so they don’t need to take out loans to pay for college.”
Eli Ratner ’24, a former intern for DeLauro during her reelection campaign, agreed that the current loan program is problematic in that many college graduates have to spend much of their life after college repaying debts. He said, “My parents still talk about paying off their college loans because the system that is currently in place takes advantage of a lot of young kids who don’t grow up with a lot of wealth, and it keeps a cycle of wealth restricted to one specific class of people.”
Ratner noted the impact of DeLauro’s addition to the program: “I think it’s going to make colleges a lot more accessible to a lot of people… this student loan forgiveness program is going to make it easier for people to not be as afraid to take these loans to get into college, and now [students] will have greater access to a lot more private universities that cost a lot of money.”
Chapin said that, despite these efforts, more can be done to help students that are unable to pay back their debt: “Perhaps there could be an emphasis on helping people who have student loans but haven’t yet finished their degrees. Those individuals are the ones who often struggle to repay their loans because they have the debt without the degree.”
Providing borrowers with more manageable reimbursement plans in the face of potential governmental budget cuts is a key part of DeLauro’s mission. In an interview with News 8, DeLauro comments, “Every young person in America should have the opportunity to get a good education without getting trapped into a lifetime of student loan debt.”