News Column

Heitkamp Helps Introduce Bill to Help North Dakotans Reduce Student Loan Debt Senator Works to Make Higher Education Affordable for All North Dakotans

May 6, 2014



WASHINGTON, May 6 -- The office of Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., issued the following news release:

U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp today helped introduce a bill to allow North Dakotans with existing student loan debt to refinance to lower interest rates. The bill would save students thousands of dollars, enabling them to avoid being stuck in debt for years, if not decades, after they graduate, and boosting our economy.

Many borrowers with outstanding student loans have interest rates of nearly 7 percent or higher for undergraduate loans, while students taking out new undergraduate loans pay a rate of about 3.86 percent. The Heitkamp-backed Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act would allow our students to pay back their outstanding loans at the same, lower rates Congress overwhelmingly embraced just last summer for new borrowers.

According the Project on Student Debt, which is part of the Institute for College Access & Success, North Dakota students have some of the highest rates of indebtedness in the country, as 83 percent of the class of 2011 graduated with some form of debt - the most of any state that year.

Heitkamp's bill would help change this course, by reducing interest rates for thousands of North Dakota students.

"As someone who paid for college with the help of student loans, I know how important it is for us to make sure students have access to affordable student loans," said Senator Heidi Heitkamp. "The amount of debt North Dakota students are burdened with has skyrocketed. This not only hurts them and their families, but it is a huge drain on our state's economy. It's unacceptable that students are burdened by their student loan debt years, if not decades, after they graduate. The legislation I helped introduce today will send the message that we are investing in our young people, just like previous generations invested in me."

Heitkamp is an ardent supporter of both making higher education more affordable, and making it easier for North Dakotans to finance their studies without saddling them with an insurmountable amount of debt. She has traveled across the state to meet with students and administrators to discuss the importance of student loans and the effect indebtedness has on today's graduates. Last year, Heitkamp introduced a plan to help students with costly private student loans refinance to more affordable rates. She also called on the Administration to investigate companies that try to mischaracterize government loan programs as their own, and charge students fees to use government services that are actually free.

Nationwide, there are nearly 40 million Americans with outstanding student loans and the average student loan debt among those who borrow to get a bachelor's degree is nearly $30,000. The legislation introduced today is fully paid for by limiting special tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans that allow millionaires and billionaires to pay lower effective tax rates than middle class families.

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