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Bipartisan action to improve student loan literacy

 


As the nation’s students head back to classes after the summer break, choosing whether and where to attend college is a major focus for many high schoolers. In 2017, 44 million Americans had student-loan debt, and with rising tuition costs, it is more important than ever to empower families with the facts so that financial literacy keeps them from pitfalls of a cycle of education-related debt.

Knowing which questions to ask can be as important as finding the answers. Just ask any student or parent if they feel well equipped to make informed decisions about the student-loan process. What grants, scholarships, assistance, or work-study job opportunities are available that might reduce the amount to borrow, for example? After graduating college, what would the estimated monthly payment be for loans, and when would they be due? What would the interest rate be on such loans? Is there aid specifically for military families? These are key questions for teenagers — or anyone — preparing to embark on the next phase of their education.

To help boost financial literacy, on a bipartisan vote of 406-4, I joined my colleagues in the House of Representatives last week to approve H.R. 1635, the bipartisan Empowering Students through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act. This legislation would help potential student borrowers and parents better understand the terms of loans before they are on the hook. Currently, student recipients of federal loans are required to receive counseling, once when they take out a loan, and again upon graduation. In many cases, these students may not even remember receiving the counseling, leaving them with large sums of debt that can be crippling as they enter the workforce and start their careers.

H.R. 1635 would improve and expand required financial aid counseling to students receiving a Pell Grant or federal assistance as well as parents taking out federal loans to pay for their child’s education. Making recipients aware of loan amounts, interest rates, and potential monthly payments due will ensure that students are making the right financial decisions about these important investments in their future and will improve repayment rates nationwide. As the U.S. economy continues to grow and more jobs are created, there is an even greater demand for higher education. With these changes, we can help families make informed decisions, and I hope the Senate will act quickly to send this legislation to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

For high school students and job seekers in Central Washington, on Sept. 15, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., I will be hosting an Education and Job Training Expo in Yakima. This event will feature panels on financial aid and navigating college admissions to help equip anyone looking to continue their education. The Expo will be held at the Hopf Union Building at Yakima Valley College, on 16th Avenue and Nob Hill Boulevard. More information and an updated list of participants is at Newhouse.house.gov.

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