It’s time to make college debt free

When I graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1990, students were graduating from college with an average of about $12,000 in debt. Today, the average student debt for undergraduates in Minnesota is more than $31,000 — the fifth-highest in the nation. 
Getting a good education shouldn’t be a privilege reserved for the lucky few born into the right families. It’s time to talk about debt-free college. 
The weight of debt forces students to make difficult choices about their careers. They’re less likely to be approved for lines of credit, making it harder to buy a car or get a mortgage. Students with debt are more likely to live with their parents and delay starting a family. 
Students should walk across the stage on graduation day and take their diploma into a brighter future. But student debt increases inequality. People in the bottom 25 percent of household wealth own almost 60 percent of all student debt. Students of color and low-income students take on more debt than their wealthier classmates and often use private loans, which come with higher interest rates and fewer repayment options. 
No student should be punished for investing in his or her future, which is why debt-free college is such an important idea. 
Debt-free college would help more students graduate, pursue a career they are passionate about and stimulate the economy by giving more people the chance to buy homes, buy cars, open businesses and start families.
Making college debt free is actually pretty easy. The federal government would start by sending money to states to invest in lowering the overall cost of public schools. States would in turn commit to keeping costs low for all students. Funding for programs like Pell Grants and other forms of aid that don’t need to be paid back is then increased, covering the remaining cost for students who can’t afford the lower tuition rates. 
The result? No students would graduate with loans to pay back. The proposal would also support millions of college graduates who have already taken out loans by forgiving some of their debt.
Last Tuesday, six senators and 31 of my colleagues in the House joined me to introduce a resolution in support of debt-free college. Leaders around the country support this big, bold idea, but it won’t happen unless students stand up and make their voices heard.
Politicians rarely see the light until their constituents turn up the heat. If we hold our elected officials accountable, we can make sure all students leave college
without debt weighing them down. 
Debt-free college can happen, but we need you to stand up for it.