Senate Democrats are crisscrossing their states this week looking for support for proposed legislation that would help students saddled with college debt. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) asked students at Syracuse University Monday to lobby lawmakers to support the "In the Red Debt Free College" proposal.
Flanked by students in SU’s Eggers Hall, Schumer proclaimed that a college education in this day and age is a necessity, but is being priced as a luxury, breaking the bank for students and families across the state.
"We have to change the way we finance college," Schumer said.
The idea, supported by Senate Democrats, would make 2 years of community college tuition-free, allow borrowers to refinance student loans at lower rates and ensure that Pell grants keep pace with rising costs. Schumer said it would also encourage colleges and universities to keep tuition from going up to much.
He said it appeals to everybody.
“Different prongs help different people," Schumer said. "If you’re 30 and you still have $40,000 in debt, you want that interest rate reduced. If you’re just starting school, you don’t want to pay for those first two years. If you’re a poor person, you want Pell grants, and everybody wants tuition costs to go down.”
To blunt criticism about the cost, Schumer said it would be paid for with higher taxes on the very rich and the elimination of tax breaks for the oil industry. He expects there will be a vote this spring on the legislation and is asking students to help spread the word.
"If we get a million or two million college students throughout the country letting their senators know, through email, through tweeting through writing, if you wish, if you’re old fashioned, through visiting your congressmen and senators, we will pass this bill," Schumer said.
Total student loan debt in the United States is now more than $1 trillion.