WASHINGTON– Today, U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs U.S. Representatives Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), and U.S. Representative Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) introduced resolutions in the Senate and House of Representatives supporting efforts to ensure that students have access to debt-free higher education.  Over the last 30 years, the cost of college has increased by 300 percent, forcing some students to take on overwhelming student loan debt or putting a college degree entirely out of reach for others. Student loan debt is now the highest form of personal debt in the nation, reaching over $1.3 trillion for 38 million student loan borrowers across the country.

“A higher education is the best way for people to move up the economic ladder, but the rising cost of college in Hawai‘i and across the country has made it harder for students to earn a degree and get ahead,” said Senator Schatz.  “Our message is clear: we need to do more to make college more affordable for all students so that they can graduate without debt holding them back.  The federal government, states, and schools all have a role to play in cutting the cost of college.  This is a problem we can solve, and we can start by working to make sure institutions receiving federal funding are doing their part to make a degree more affordable and accessible for all students.”

“Going to college is absolutely essential to getting into the middle class and getting ahead once you're there, but far too often it ends up breaking students' banks,” said Senator Schumer.  “When students graduate with loads of debt, the ripple effects are endless; they're less likely to start a business, to buy a house, and to realize their full potential.  When it comes to making college affordable, I'm hopeful that debt-free college is the next big idea."

“A student at a public university today faces tuition prices that are more than 300 percent of what his or her parents faced just 30 years ago, and total outstanding student loan debt now stands at a staggering $1.3 trillion,” said Senator Warren.  “Our country should be investing in higher education and working with colleges and universities to bring down tuition costs so that students don't have to take on crushing debt to get an education.”

“Education remains the single greatest avenue of upward mobility our society has ever known,” said Representative Grijalva.  “But the mounting costs of higher education place it out of reach for too many Americans, holding them back from their full potential or burdening them with unimaginable debt for years to come. In the richest nation on earth, there is no excuse for erecting and maintaining these barriers to professional growth.”

“Americans—young and old—know continuing their education is the best path to a financially secure future. But students who go to college face mountains of debt, and too many face difficult choices about their careers and their families because of it,” said Representative Ellison.  “The Debt Free College Resolution is critical because students shouldn’t be punished for investing in their own future—they should walk across the stage on graduation day and take their diploma into a brighter future.”

“Too many young people I’ve talked to are saddled with insurmountable debt just as they’re beginning their adult lives,” said Representative Clark.  “Congress can and should ensure that students who are working hard to begin their careers, start a family, and contribute to our economy are able to graduate from public colleges debt-free so they can focus on pursuing their dreams rather than being held back by a lifetime of debt."

“We all know a college education is important towards achieving long-term success.  However, an entire generation is being weighed down by more than $1 trillion in student loan debt,” said Representative Pocan.  “It’s time to end the reliance on debt as a way to finance a college education for many low- and middle-income students. I’m proud to stand with my progressive colleagues to fight for the goal of providing debt-free college at public institutions across the country. Debt free college is a big, bold way to ensure every student has a chance at success.”

“Crushing student loan debt is making it harder for graduates to save to buy a house, start their own business, or put money aside for a secure retirement,” said Representative Israel.  “A college education is the most important investment that young people can make and should be viewed as a tool of opportunity rather than a financial burden. That is why I am proud to add my name to this initiative calling for a goal of debt-free college that will hopefully generate more conversation about how to alleviate that financial strain and empower graduates to achieve the American dream.”

“A highly educated workforce is key to the success of our nation. However, higher education has become increasingly inaccessible as costs have skyrocketed,” said Representative Rangel.  “We must ensure that everyone can afford to attend college and become more competitive.  Students should be spending more time focused on thriving at school and less time worrying about how they'll pay for it. I look forward to working with my colleagues to reduce the burden of student loan debt and to help expand opportunities for our future generations.”

“We tell students that education opens the doors of opportunity. But when these students pursue higher education, even at public institutions, they too often graduate saddled with debt that takes decades to payback, keeps them from investing in their families, and suffocates our nation’s economic growth,” said Representative Watson Coleman.  “Like a high school diploma in the past, a college degree has become a virtual prerequisite for a middle class job. We need to make affordable higher education a right for all, not just a privilege for the fortunate.  Congress has the ability to make debt-free higher education a reality, supporting our students and continued American competitiveness.”

“A college education provides opportunities and breaks down inequalities,” said Representative McGovern.  “As a nation, we should encourage and incentivize those who wish to pursue a higher education - not penalize them by saddling them with debt for years to come.”

The resolutions were introduced by the following: U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and U.S. Representatives Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.), Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Donna Edwards (D-Md.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), Janice Hahn (D-Calif.), Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Mike Honda (D-Calif.), Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.), Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), Alma Adams (D-N.C.), Peter Welch (D-Mass.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), and Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.).

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