by Will Tondo & Harrison Garret/ Editor in Chief, Opinion Editor
This past Tuesday, U.S. Congressman David Cicilline set up a quick meeting with students in the Fisher Student Center to talk about a new act that he created. The event was televised to report on his tour. This week, the Congressmen launched his “Making College More Affordable” tour of RI College and University campuses and his first visit was to Bryant University. He said that Rhode Island students have the second-highest average debt load in the country at $35,169 per student, and he states he is committed to working in Congress to provide a much-needed relief. Congressman Cicilline was pleased to hear from students about their personal struggles with college affordability and discuss how the Making College More Affordable Act, which was recently introduced, would save borrowers thousands of dollars. According to his website and his meeting at Bryant, more than 43 million Americans are working to pay off $1.2 trillion in student loan debt. Seven out of every ten graduates from a four-year college leave school with debt. Student loan debt is now a larger problem than credit card debt, car loan debt, and home equity lines of credit. The Making College More Affordable Act will address the root causes of this problem through a five-point approach: Creating an automatic payroll deduction, thereby simplifying the payment process by deducting monthly payments in the same way that Social Security contributions are deducted today. This in turn, lowers the required monthly payment for undergraduate student loans from the current range of 10 to 20 percent of a borrower’s aft er-tax income to a starting contribution of 4 percent of pre-tax income, with payments increasing for incomes more than $100,000 annually. Eliminating interest on student loans includes shifting from a range of 10 to 25 years on a loan to a clearly defined 30-year loan – the same as a home mortgage – and allowing at least 30 million Americans who are holding student loans today to refinance existing student loan debt by entering into this new system. Access to higher education is one of the single greatest predictors of success later in life. Among millennials, someone with a college degree, as opposed to a high school diploma, will make 62.5 percent more in annual income, will be three times more likely to have a job, and will be four times more less likely to live in poverty. Cicilline’s proposal ensures that more Rhode Islanders, and young people across the country, will have the opportunity to pursue a college education. A Rhode Island college graduate carrying the statewide average of $35,169 in student loan debt will save nearly $11,754 over the course of their loan – money that can be put towards opening a business, or saving for a secure retirement. In addition, by eliminating interest payments for borrowers who repay their loans on time, the Cicilline Reform Plan will address the Federal government’s practice of profiting off student loans.