WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) hosted a news conference call today with an Ohio student as he leads efforts to address the growing problem of student loan debt and works to make college more affordable. Brown helped introduce the Debt-Free College Act last week and is set to introduce legislation this week to help borrowers with growing student loan debt and to make college more accessible.

“Hard work can’t pay off if you’re drowning in college debt. You ought to be able to go to a public university, and graduate debt-free. To do that, we have to make college more affordable. Americans are working hard to get an education and build a better life for themselves, and for that hard work to pay off, we have to get the cost of college under control,” said Brown.

Brown joined Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) and others last week to introduce the Debt-Free College Act, which would restore a path to affordable college by providing states incentives through matching grants to increase investments in public higher education. The match would ensure students could graduate from public college debt free by helping cover any costs for students – including tuition, room and board, books and supplies, and other expenses – above the family’s expected maximum contribution without having to take on debt.

Brown was joined on today’s call by Melanie Drews, a student at the University of Akron, who is working two jobs to pay for school. Melanie joined the call to talk about the high cost of higher education and the importance of making college more affordable.

“I am lucky enough to work for an employer who offers tuition reimbursement; however it only covers 75% of tuition and does not cover other expenses such as university fees, books, transportation, and needed equipment and software. On top of taking a full class load at the University of Akron, I had to take up a second job to pay for these added expenses and my monthly living expenses. I have also been fortunate to work with College Now of Greater Cleveland to find some scholarship assistance to help me alleviate some costs. This legislation will help to support students who face even bigger challenges and financial setbacks be able to further their education and grow not only personally but professionally,” said Drews.

Today, Brown also helped introduce legislation that would allow qualifying student borrowers to refinance their student loans down to rates currently offered to new federal borrowers and allow student borrowers with private loans to refinance into the Federal Direct Loan program.

Brown is also set to join legislation to update current law to ensure students, including veterans, who have experienced homelessness or are currently homeless, can access affordable housing while pursuing their education. Right now, individuals pursuing full-time education are not eligible for the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program and can lose access to scholarships and grants if they switch to part-time education in order to retain access to affordable housing.

Brown continues to push for additional steps to increase access to generous income-driven repayments plans, investing in Public Service Loan Forgiveness and bolstering Federal Work Study programs and campus-based aid.

Every year, Brown hosts a College Presidents’ Conference where he encourages leadership from Ohio colleges and universities to discuss ways to make college more affordable and accessible for Ohio students.