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Sen. Charles Schumer proposes debt-free campaign for college students

Sen. Schumer pushing for debt-free initiative for college students

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Michael Lipomi said he will most likely be paying off his student loans until he is almost 50 years old.

Lipomi, a UB junior political science major, said he has racked up more than $68,000 in debt over his college career and he’s already paying it back. Lipomi borrowed almost $20,000 to attend Canisius College in 2005 before taking a four-year break and later attending UB to complete his degree.

Senate Democrats say they have a plan for college students to become debt-free.

On Thursday, Sen. Charles Schumer held a phone conference with several New York student newspapers to discuss #InTheRed.

According to Schumer, #InTheRed is a campaign “aimed at pushing Congress to address college affordability.” In turn, the Senators are putting a bill together called the Reducing Education Debt (RED) Act, which consists of several parts to reduce college debt for students.

The first part would involve lowering interest rates on loans. Rather than the 6-9 percent the government normally charges, Schumer said interest rates would be lowered to around 3 percent.

“That means whether you’re in college now or you’re 30 and you’ve been out of college for 10 years but you’re still repaying your debt, your repayments would go down by thousands,” Schumer said.

Schumer also said part of this initiative would make it so two-year colleges are free, that way students can earn an associate’s degree without needing to take out loans.

He did say however that there is some negative feedback as to the Senators’ proposal.

“The main criticism is that it costs some money. It does cost some money,” Schumer said. “But what do we do? We introduce the Buffett rule. What the Buffett rule says is that if you’re a multi-millionaire you should at least pay the same amount of taxes as your secretary and not use loopholes.”

Schumer also said this bill would call for an increase in taxes for oil companies, who he said normally gets tax breaks.

Lipomi said he finds himself constantly worrying about his student loans and that it’s a stress he has to deal with regularly.

“I find myself frustrated because my loan payments limit my ability to do other activities,” he said. “Also, that after all of this [college and repayment] I might end up not utilizing my degree at all.”

Schumer said part of this legislation would make it so that colleges can no longer continuously raise tuition. NYSUNY 2020 currently restricts SUNY campuses from increasing tuition by more than $300 in a single year. Although the legislation puts a limit on tuition increases, it’s still leads to increased tuition.

UB will increase its tuition by the maximum $300 every year for the next five years under NYSUNY 2020.

“Increasing tuition is going exactly in the wrong direction and even if we increase student aid, if tuition goes up you’re still not better off as you were before,” Schumer said.

By encouraging each state to continue to send money to their in-state colleges – both public and private – Schumer said this will allow colleges some support, however the schools must be the ones to be held accountable.

Schumer also said it is ultimately students who must voice their opinion on whether or not they want this campaign to happen.

“We can’t make this happen without popular support,” Schumer said. “History has taught us the voices of young Americans can change things. Students have power if they mobilize.”

email: news@ubspectrum.com

Marlee Tuskes is the senior news editor and can be reached at marlee.tuskes@ubspectrum.com. Follow her on Twitter at @marleetuskes5


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