Kendrick files bill to alleviate student debt
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The student loan crisis has taken a central role in the Democratic presidential campaign, namely because Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has vowed to make college tuition free.
However, his opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and many of the Republican candidates, most notably Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, have rolled out their own plans. Rubio even called student loans worse than indentured servitude at a campaign event in New Hampshire last year.
Now, at the Missouri state level, state Rep. Kip Kendrick, D-Columbia, is hoping to provide relief for the indebted with a new bill filed Monday called the Student Debt Relief Act.
“What my bill will allow for is the consolidation and refinancing of student loans at the state level,” he said.
The problem has arisen not just in Missouri, but across the country. It has especially become more pronounced in the last decade. The perceived need for a college degree driven up the demand for education from four-year universities. Despite some levels of dropping college enrollment in recent years, enrollment levels in 2013 were still double what they were in the early 70s, and when demand rises, prices rise with it. Higher prices mean increased student loan levels, and from 2005 to 2015, the average amount of debt per borrower on a national scale has risen from $20,000 to $35,000, according to the Wall Street Journal. The publication called the Class of 2015 the “most indebted ever” – until the Class of 2016 likely takes their place this May.
In Missouri that number is lower, but more than 900,000 Missourians carry student loan debt, at an average amount of $26,500 owed.
Kendrick argues that amount of debt and the structure of current repayment plans on that debt cuts into the purchasing power of young adults who are just beginning to enter the workplace.
“It forces students to pay the bulk of the debt when earnings are lowest and job security is least,” Kendrick said in a statement. “My bill is a common-sense solution that will provide relief to hundreds of thousands of Missourians. It is a needed solution in response to a growing problem with statewide impact.”
However, Kendrick also mentioned the bill had been constructed in a way to protect the interests of the state.
“The way my bill is set up it’s implemented safeguards for the state but also for the student or for the graduate,” he said. “Part of the safeguards are requiring the associate’s degree or higher… and the first payment has been made on the original loan. Those are important because they add safeguards to the state, but they also allow us to lower the interest rates on refinanced loans.”
Kendrick has been educating himself on this particular subject for the past six months, and he has yet to promote the legislation to the rest of the body. The freshman representative is confident that this bill will not be caught in any kind of bipartisan fight.
“Everyone should be talking about this issue,” he said. “It’s not a Republican vs. Democrat issue. It transcends party lines.”
Kendrick also noted that if the bill did fall by the wayside this session, he would keep fighting for it, even if it takes him the rest of his time in the House.