News Column

On Senate Floor, Sen. Franken Calls for Action to Address College Affordability & Student Loan Debt

May 7, 2014



WASHINGTON, May 7 -- The office of Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., issued the following news release:

Today, U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) took to the Senate floor and called for action to help Minnesota students and families burdened by the rising cost of college and the debt they are forced to take on. You can download a video of his remarks here.

During his speech, Sen. Franken highlighted the need to pass the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act, which would give those with outstanding student loan debt the opportunity to refinance their public and private student loans at the lower interest rates currently offered to new borrowers. Sen. Franken joined Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in introducing the bill earlier this week.

"So many Minnesotans in schools across the state show tremendous perseverance and grit in getting a college education and in cobbling together the resources to pay for it," said Sen. Franken during his speech.

"They should not end up with crushing debt and be unable to take advantage of lower interest rates to reduce that debt."

Right now, there are nearly 40 million Americans with outstanding student loans. The Bank on Students Emergency Refinancing Act could lower payments for millions of those individuals by hundreds or thousands of dollars a year. The average student loan debt among those who borrow to get a bachelor's degree is nearly $30,000--and a shocking 30 percent of Federal Direct student loan dollars are in default, forbearance, or deferment.

Since joining the Senate, Sen. Franken has worked hard to make college more affordable. In his speech, he also talked about his two bipartisan bills with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)--which you can read about herehttp://www.franken.senate.gov/?p=news&id=2452. and herehttps://www.franken.senate.gov/?p=press_release&id=2793--to help students and their families better prepare for the costs of higher education.

Said Sen. Franken, "In the Senate, I've been working on a number of solutions to the college affordability problem. I've got two bipartisan bills with Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa that would help students and families understand college costs and compare the costs of different colleges as they go through the process of selecting a school."

He also talked about tackling college textbook costs, a critical and often overlooked part of addressing college affordability. Late last year, Sen. Franken helped lead a bill with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), called the Affordable College Textbook Act, to combat the rising expense of textbooks and supplies.http://www.franken.senate.gov/files/documents/131114Textbooks.pdf

"Our bill will help expand the use of free, online, open source college textbooks, which are a really good alternative to the traditional, expensive kind," said Sen. Franken. "This is a great way to reduce the overall cost of going to college."

In addition to his legislative efforts, Sen. Franken has hosted a series of College Affordability Roundtables around Minnesota to hear directly from students, families, and higher education officials on what can be done to improve higher education. And for the third year, he sent his staff out into communities statewide to hold College Affordability Resource Nights.

You can read Sen. Franken's remarks as prepared for delivery herehttp://www.franken.senate.gov/?p=news&id=2799 and download a video of his speech here.http://www.franken.senate.gov/files/video/140507FloorSpeechCollegeDebt.mp4

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