BROWN: Making college more affordable

News Democrat

Student loan debt now surpasses credit card debt in the United States, according to the Federal Reserve.

College students and their families should not have to sign away their financial futures when they sign up for college. Yet, many Americans saddled with student loan debt must postpone buying a car, investing in a home, or starting a family.

"Come on, Senator, how can this be fair?" a Gallia County resident recently wrote to me about the growing burden of student loan debt. She's not alone in worrying about the high cost of higher education.

But help is on the way.

An Executive Action issued by President Obama would consolidate student loans, reduce interests rates, and lower monthly payments on student loans.

Two-thirds of college graduates in Ohio complete their four year degrees with an average of $26,000 in debt. That's not just unfair, it is not in the best interest of the United States.

We need to support students who are working to move America forward. The next generation of technological innovations will be developed in our college laboratories and the critical thinking skills needed to move America forward will be cultivated in our university classrooms.

A portion of the President's recent Executive Action - which provides much-needed assistance to struggling college graduates is based on a bill I authored with Ohioans in mind: the Student Loan Simplification and Opportunity Act. This common-sense legislation would give borrowers with both Federal Family Education Loan loans and Direct Loans the option to convert their FFEL loans to Direct Loans.

Starting next year, graduates with loans through the Federal Family Education Loans program, administered by private banks, and Direct Loans, administered by the Department of Education, will be able to consolidate their loans into one monthly payment. To encourage students to take advantage of this program, they will be rewarded with up to .5 percent off their loan's interest rates.

What would this mean for students pursuing two-year degrees in Stark County or four year degrees in Franklin County? It would mean a simplified loan repayment process, a lowered likelihood of default, and less debt. That's why President Obama's announcement last week is good news for Ohioans.

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BROWN: Making college more affordable »