COLUMBIA, Md. – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) today joined students and leadership of Howard Community College for a roundtable discussion on college affordability. Senator Cardin heard directly from more than a dozen students about the challenges they must overcome to pay for their education, and the effects of mounting debt on educational aspirations and occupational choices. Several students also noted that their education debt was likely to influence not only their own college and career choices, but also those of their children.
“Maryland’s students and their families shouldn’t have to saddle themselves with generational debt to pursue their educational goals,” said Senator Cardin. “We need to remember that we’ve taught our children that the American dream is achievable for those individuals willing to pursue an education and work hard. We simply must make good on those promises.”
“The cost of college keeps some students from attending or slows their progress toward completion,” said Dr. Kathleen Hetherington, president of Howard Community College. “Community colleges are the most affordable option in higher education, but we need continued support to ensure students graduate from college free from debt.”
“Our students are investing considerable effort and resources to better themselves, and their successes in the classroom will translate over time to resilient regional economies, lower unemployment and an even stronger culture of innovation in Maryland,” said Senator Cardin. “We’ve made some progress in helping our students succeed, but much more needs to be done. And it’s time to begin giving serious consideration to some of the more visionary ideas out there, like making Pell Grants available for year-round study and the prospect of a modern iteration of the storied G.I. Bill, in which students could receive assistance toward a four-year degree following a period of substantive civil or community service.”
Senator Cardin also discussed his support for President Obama’s “America’s College Promise” proposal to make community college tuition-free for responsible students.
“An estimated 9 million students could benefit annually from President Obama’s ‘America’s College Promise’ proposal, which holds the potential to dramatically advance American public education,” said Senator Cardin. “But this should be seen as a first step, not the last one.”
Senator Cardin is a cosponsor of Senator Tammy Baldwin’s (D-Wisc.) America’s College Promise Act of 2015 (S. 1716).
Senator Cardin also explored several additional measures currently receiving serious consideration in Congress that could offer debt relief to America’s students, including measures that would allow students to refinance their education loans at market-competitive interest rates or be granted debt forgiveness following extended periods of employment.
“Many American families are deciding that they simply cannot take on additional debt, or they scale back their plans for additional years of study. This is unacceptable, and it leads to life decisions that are not in the best interest of our students – or our country,” said Senator Cardin. “When saddled with debt, students delay home-buying, hesitate to launch or invest in businesses and wait longer to start families. Simply put, the effects of student debt keep us from being the country we need to be. We can do much better, and I will not stop fighting to make college far more affordable for a far greater number of America’s students.”