Oklahoma representative sponsors legislation to help those struggling with student loan debt

In today’s educational climate, it is almost impossible for someone to go to college without financial assistance.

Multiple students earn scholarships every year, but this is usually not enough to cover the growing costs of higher education in America.

Congresswoman Kendra Horn, House Representative for the fifth district of Oklahoma, is sponsoring and helping write legislation to tackle the student loan debt crisis many current and former students face.

“Student loans and student debt is something than affects so many of us,” Horn said. “Not only those of us who have it or had it or anticipate having to take it out, but it is an issue for people, for individuals and it is an economic issue for so many. Over the course of the last couple of decades across this country, and Oklahoma is certainly no exception, we have been a part of this. The cost of a higher education at a public four-year institution has more than doubled … Now we have $1.6 trillion across this country in outstanding student loan debt, and the average Oklahoman has $26,000.”

Horn is not a stranger to student loan debt. She had to make difficult decisions straight out of law school to support herself and pay off her loans.

“When I was right out of law school working on the hill as a staffer, I was trying to figure out how I was going to pay the rent and pay my student loans,” Horn said.

The bills proposed are the first steps Horn is wanting to take to make the cost of higher education more affordable.

The GRACE Act (Guaranteeing Respite After College Ends Act) – H.R. 3792

The GRACE Act prevents interest from starting on students’ loans until six months after graduation or when a student leaves school.

Many of the complaints people have when they graduate from college is how interest on loans piles up to the point where, in some cases, people are paying more than three times the original amount of the loan. This is not abnormal for students, especially those who go on to graduate degree programs.

The idea is to save students “tens of thousands of dollars” for borrowers whose interest would have started immediately, even when students might not have jobs immediately out of school.

The SLASH Act (Student Loan Accrual Support and Help Act) – H.R. 3793

Student loan companies can charge more than 10 percent interest on many loans. This bill “slashes” interest rates by tying them to a low interest treasury rate, limits rate growth over time and caps interest rates at 5 percent.

Not only will this help with rising interest rates, but also, it stops loan companies from taking advantage of students who want to further their educations. High interest rates often result in tens of thousands of dollars in additional costs.

The Better Service to Borrowers Act of 2019 – H.R. 3519

This piece of legislation will simplify the language in loan documents so people understand what they are borrowing, how much it will cost and what their options are for paying back the loans.

The Public Service Pays Off Act – H.R. 4113

This act encourages public service by providing incremental loan forgiveness instead of requiring 10 years of payments before individuals are eligible for the program. More than 40,000 people have applied for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, but only 206 people have had loans forgiven.

Horn has also cosponsored legislation allowing individuals to discharge student loan debt on bankruptcy, just like all other debt. Other legislation she has cosponsored allows students to use Pell Grants on career and technical education and would give students borrowers tax relief on student loan payments.

This legislation is under debate in Congress. Hasan Minhaj spoke to Congress about student loans during the past Wednesday, and hearings about student loan debt are occurring throughout this congressional meeting.

news.ed@ocolly.com