Citing skyrocketing costs, Schatz continues push for debt-free college

Brian Schatz, on the push for debt-free college and skyrocketing education costs

WASHINGTON, D.C. (HawaiiNewsNow) - U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz is continuing his push to make college more affordable.

On Wednesday, Schatz re-introduced the Debt Free College Act.

The measure would create a state-federal partnership to allow students to go to college free of debt within five years.

Under the partnership, it would give states a one-to-one match from the federal government for higher education appropriations. In exchange, the states would need to commit to helping students pay for the full cost of attendance without taking on debt.

The money would cover tuition, room and board, books and supplies and other expenses.

“For a lot of people, tuition is only 30 to 40 percent of the total cost of attending college, so even if tuition were free, people have to take out loans," Sen. Schatz said Wednesday. "So they can pay rent. So that they can eat. So they can have a cell phone and internet connection and buy books. And so, dealing with the whole cost of college is what this bill is all about.”

Wisconsin Congressman Mark Pocan is leading the charge on the House side, and is hopeful the legislation will get bipartisan support.

“This really address all the costs that a student would have," Rep. Pocan said. "And it also has, again, that shared responsibility aspects that I think make it popular, that go across political lines. So I think it has a lot of potential.”

According to Schatz, the cost of higher education has inflated 300 percent over the past three decades. This partnership would incentivize states to increase higher education appropriations — and ultimately drive down the rising costs leading to student debt.

Schatz is one of several Congressional leaders who have pushed to make college more affordable, including 2020 presidential candidates U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Kamala Harris, D-Calif., just to name a few.

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