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Schumer Launches Online Campaign for Student Input on College Affordability, Pushes Congress to Confront the Issue

Written by Long Island News & PR  |  12. January 2016

Washington, DC - January 11, 2016 - On a conference call with reporters, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced his online campaign to collect the stories of students and parents who are struggling to pay for college or are burdened by massive amounts of student loan debt. Schumer said his statewide campaign is a critical part of his push to more comprehensively tackle the issue of college affordability. In light of the fact that total nationwide college debt has exploded past the $1 trillion mark, Schumer said Congress must focus on the issue of college affordability and work to address it. Schumer is therefore asking New Yorkers to submit their stories on his website and through social media. In addition, during the call, Schumer revealed his State of the Union guest.

“In today’s uber-competitive and globally connected economy, a college education is a necessity, but it is being priced as a luxury – and it is breaking the bank for students and families across Upstate New York. With tuition costs continuing to rise, middle-class families and their children are forced to take on significant debts in order to obtain a college diploma. Because of this, student loan debt is a huge burden on the shoulders of millions of young Americans, and it is holding back their ability to achieve the American Dream and is a significant drag on our economy,” said Schumer. “I am launching this campaign today to encourage students and parents and student loan debt holders to share their stories so we can finally force Congress to comprehensively address the issue of college affordability, which is key to the ongoing success of our economy.”

Over the last decade, college tuition costs have risen across the country, and more students at all income levels are borrowing significant sums from both federal and private lenders to finance a college education. In fact, students are borrowing in higher amounts than ever before. Student loan debt now exceeds auto loan debt and even the amount Americans owe on credit cards. According to the Wall Street Journal, student loan debt in the U.S. has doubled since 2007 and has been propelled past the $1 trillion mark. According to a 2014 report from the Wall Street Journal, economists and academics have attributed student loan debt, in part, to hindering the ability for young people to afford rent, home ownership and greatly impacted their ability to accrue retirement savings. This has in turn stifled economic growth following the financial crisis.

According to the Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS), over the last decade—from 2004 to 2014—the share of graduates with debt rose from 65 percent to 69 percent. In addition, the average debt at graduation rose at more than twice the rate of inflation. According to TICAS, in New York State alone, the average college graduate has $27,822 in student loan debt, and the proportion of New York college graduates with student loan debt is approximately 61 percent. In Upstate New York, there were approximately 71,080 bachelor’s degree recipients in 2014, and an average graduate debt of $28,673.99. Schumer provided the breakdown of student loan debt by region to highlight the fact that student loan debt is something New Yorkers struggle with across all of Upstate NY:

  • In the Capital Region, there were approximately 12,497 bachelor’s degree recipients in 2014, with an average graduate debt of $29,771.45.
  • In Central New York, there were approximately 10,156 bachelor’s degree recipients in 2014, with an average graduate debt of $32,119.67.
  • In Western New York, there were approximately 11,288 bachelor’s degree recipients in 2014, with an average graduate debt of $30,762.45.
  • In the Rochester-Finger Lakes, there were approximately 9,889 bachelor’s degree recipients in 2014, with an average graduate debt of $29,663.17.
  • In the Southern Tier, there were approximately 11,351 bachelor’s degree recipients in 2014, with an average graduate debt of $25,373.40.
  • In the Hudson Valley, there were approximately 11,570 bachelor’s degree recipients in 2014, with an average graduate debt of $27,857.78
  • In the North Country, there were approximately 4,329 bachelor’s degree recipients in 2014, with an average graduate debt of $25,170.00.

Schumer has long fought to pass education tax benefits and legislation aimed at making college more affordable for middle-class families struggling to keep up with the rising costs of tuition. That is why, as a part of his continuing effort to give students a fair shot at obtaining an affordable college education, Schumer is launching a statewide campaign to gather stories from students and parents and student debt holders across New York State that will inform and energize this national effort. Schumer said hearing from individual students and their families would help compel Congress to address the issue of college affordability. Schumer said finding ways to ensure students are not drowning in college debt would better allow them to contribute to the economy, as they would more easily be able to afford rent, buy homes, start small businesses, save for their retirement and purchase goods that contribute to the GDP, like cars and items for their new homes.

Schumer told New Yorkers who are struggling with their student loans to tweet, post on Facebook, or email him their stories through his website

Schumer said he is working to build upon previous efforts to make college more affordable. Just last month, Schumer announced that the Protecting Americans From Tax Hikes Act of 2015 – also known as the tax “extenders package” – made the Schumer-authored college tax credit a permanent part of the U.S. Tax Code. Schumer’s legislation, the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC), which he helped pass into law initially in 2009, is available to families earning up to $180,000 per year and provides a tax credit of up to $2,500 per year, per eligible student. Families with students New York will now be eligible to save over $1 billion per year with this tax credit. The U.S. Office of Management and Budget estimated that the AOTC’s permanence will provide $15.2 billion in tax relief nationwide in 2015 to make college more affordable. 

Schumer said he is working to build upon previous efforts to make college more affordable. Just last month, Schumer announced that the Protecting Americans From Tax Hikes Act of 2015 – also known as the tax “extenders package” – made the Schumer-authored college tax credit a permanent part of the U.S. Tax Code. Schumer’s legislation, the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC), which he helped pass into law initially in 2009, is available to families earning up to $180,000 per year and provides a tax credit of up to $2,500 per year, per eligible student. Families with students New York will now be eligible to save over $1 billion per year with this tax credit. The U.S. Office of Management and Budget estimated that the AOTC’s permanence will provide $15.2 billion in tax relief nationwide in 2015 to make college more affordable. 

This year, Schumer also helped pass a two-year extension of the Federal Perkins Loan program, through the Federal Perkins Loan Program Extension Act of 2015. Specifically, this legislation will allow current and new undergraduate borrowers to complete the 2017-18 academic year with the support of Perkins Loans. In addition, it will allow current graduate borrowers to complete the 2016-17 academic year with the support of Perkins Loans. Schumer said this is a step in the right direction and he will continue pushing to extend the Perkins program further and extend eligibility for new graduate students.

During the call, Schumer also announced that his guest to the State of the Union is Sean McAllister. Schumer explained that Sean is from West Islip, NY and, like many students across the state and US, has struggled with affording the cost of a college education. McAllister is currently a junior at Syracuse University’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management. Despite being only halfway through his undergraduate studies, he has over $30,000 in student loan debt. Schumer said he will continue working to find bipartisan solutions that will help solve the student loan debt crisis in the US, beginning with this campaign to collect stories from students and families that are currently facing the difficult task of obtaining an affordable college education.

Schumer continued, “I am honored that Sean McAllister will be able to join us for the State of the Union, and to help us highlight the student debt crisis in this country. Sean works construction to pay for school, and still makes Dean’s List. He is a smart young man, but is already $30K in the red. We all know that the future of our state and nation depends on having a well-educated workforce. Making education more expensive, and therefore unattainable, for hardworking students like Sean is biting the hand that feeds us, and it’s a mistake.”

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