Congressman Mark S. Critz (PA-12) expressed concern over a new report out this week from the Project on Student Debt at The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS), which found that students who borrowed for college and earned bachelor's degrees in 2011 graduated with an average $26,600 in student loan debt, up from $25,250 in 2010.
"More work needs to be done to address college costs, and making college more affordable is one of the most important things we can do to invest in our nation's future," said Congressman Critz, who successfully fought to prevent student loan interest rates from doubling on July 1st of this year. "Higher education is still the likeliest route to employment and good wages, and we cannot allow the fear of high-debt after graduation to stop some students from getting a college education."
The TICAS report includes several "common-sense policies to help students make more informed choices about where to go to college and how to pay for it, how to borrow wisely and reduce the need to borrow, and how to keep loan payments manageable." Recommendations from TICAS include making sure students take advantage of policies that Democratic lawmakers have enacted in recent Congresses to make higher education more affordable. For example, the 2010 Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA) put a college education within reach for students who rely on grants, student loans and access to community college for their degree. SAFRA indexed the Pell Grant to the rate of inflation, ensuring that the grant will rise with the cost of college for the first time. The TICAS report also recommends promoting greater awareness of income-based repayment options and data tools, to ensure more students take advantage of them.
Instead of working to make college affordable, the House Republican budget, authored by House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI), slashes vital investments in higher education and makes it more expensive for millions of American students. The Ryan-Republican budget cuts more than 400,000 students from the Pell Grant program and allows interest rates on need-based student loans to double for more than 7.5 million low and middle income students.
"While we must address our nation's economic challenges, the Ryan-Republican budget cuts the very education programs that allow millions of American students the opportunity to go to college and earn a higher education," added Congressman Critz. "The Ryan-Republican budget views these programs as a drain on our nation's spending; I believe that investing in our students is critical to our nation's economic recovery and future competiveness."