WASHINGTON - Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., joined their colleagues this week in reintroducing the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act.
The legislation introduced in the Senate and House would allow those with outstanding student loan debt to refinance at the interest rates offered to new federal borrowers in the 2016-2017 school year. The Senate voted on a previous version of the bill in 2014 in the 113th Congress, and every Senate Democrat and three Senate Republicans voted to move the bill forward, falling just short of breaking a Republican filibuster.
“Pursuing a quality higher education should not put financial handcuffs on America’s college students,” Wyden said. “The federal government must do more to make sure students in Oregon and across the country have access to payment flexibility and debt relief, instead of creating more roadblocks to an affordable college education.”
“Too many Americans are facing crushing student loan debt that feels like a millstone around their necks,” Merkley said. “While we work to bring down the cost of higher education for future students, the least we can do for those who’ve already taken out loans is to enable them to save money by refinancing at the same interest rates that new students get today.”
Since the original bill was introduced, student loan debt has gone up more than $200 billion. In 2015, 70% of college seniors graduated with debt. And this year, more than one in four borrowers is in delinquency or in default on their student loans. According to a recent analysis, roughly one quarter of borrowers has defaulted over the life of their loans and 37 percent of borrowers have missed at least one payment.
It is clear that the student loan debt crisis is getting increasingly worse, with no signs of slowing down, the senators said, calling it a crisis that threatens our economy and the futures of young people all across America.
In addition to Wyden and Merkley, original sponsors of the legislation in the Senate included Senators Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Cory Booker, D-N.J., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio., Ben Cardin, D-Md., Bob Casey Jr., D-Pa., Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Al Franken, D-Minn., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Ed Markey, D-Mass., Bob Menendez, D-N.J., Chris Murphy, D-Conn., Patty Murray, D-Wash., Gary Peters, D-Mich., Jack Reed, D-R.I., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Tom Udall, D-N.M., Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.