More and more families are working to make the dream of a college education for their children a reality, but too many of them are struggling under slow economic growth and stagnant wages.  Now they are also faced with the increasing cost of tuition, making it harder to plan for and afford a college education.  Senator Portman has been a leader in the effort to expand access to college and make it more affordable for students, parents, and families struggling to make ends meet.

Providing Relief from the High Cost of College

Senator Portman has worked to expand access to college and make it more affordable.  Here’s how:

  • Flexible Repayment Options for Graduates. Portman is a cosponsor of the Repay Act, which consolidates student loan repayment programs and gives borrowers a choice of either a 10-year fixed repayment or an income-driven repayment plan – making the system work for them. The income-driven option would ensure that borrowers never pay more than 15 percent of their monthly disposable income throughout the life of the loan, helping borrowers manage their day-to-day expenses like food and rent while still making progress in paying down their student loans.  The balance of the loan would then be forgiven after 20 or 25 years of repayment, depending on the amount of the loan.  In addition, anyone who becomes permanently disabled would have the remaining loan balance forgiven under the bill.
  • Lowering Student Loan Rates.  When student loan rates were scheduled to go up in 2013, Senator Portman helped introduce, and voted for, a bipartisan compromise signed by President Obama that stopped student loan rates from doubling, reduced rates immediately for most borrowers, and let them take advantage of lower rates when available.  Nearly 11 million people saw their rates decrease on new loans, saving the average undergraduate $1,500.
  • Helping Students with Financial Needs.  When it expired, Senator Portman successfully fought to extend the subsidized, low-interest Perkins Loan Program that helps more than 25,000 Ohio students at 60 schools with $47.7 million in financial aid.  Portman is also a sponsor of a resolution supporting the Perkins Loan program.
  • Expanding College Savings Plans.  Senator Portman sponsored legislation to expand 529 savings plans for middle-class parents saving for their children to go to college. Under this bill, parents can use tax-free 529 savings accounts to pay for college expenses like computers and technology, too. This can ease the financial pressures on parents, and help them plan for their children’s future.  This legislation has passed the House of Representatives.
  • Rejecting President Obama’s Plan to Tax College Savings.  In his 2015 State of the Union address, the president proposed a new tax on families saving for their children’s college education through a 529 savings plan.  On a bipartisan basis, both parties in Congress rejected the president’s plan and he later withdrew it.
  • Expanding Student Loan Forgiveness.  Senator Portman joined Senators Chris Coons (D-DE), and Angus King (I-ME) in introducing legislation – the Stop Taxing Death and Disability Act – to eliminate a tax penalty on families whose student loans are forgiven as the result of the death or permanent disability of their child. Because loan forgiveness is considered income for tax purposes, families can be charged tens of thousands of dollars in taxes even while grieving the loss of a child.  Families grieving the loss or permanent disability of a child should not be punished by the federal government with a massive tax bill.
  • Expanding Educational Opportunities for Nurses. Senator Portman introduced the bipartisan Making the Education of Nursing Dependable (MEND) for Schools Act, to ensure that nursing education programs don’t lose crucial Medicare payments.

Promoting Skills & College Opportunities that Lead to Jobs

Part of making college more affordable is increasing access to college credits for high school students, so that they don’t have to pay for as many credits when they’re in college, and helping new graduates get good jobs so that they can achieve financial independence and become debt-free.

  • Using Pell Grants to Make College More Affordable.  Senator Portman, with Ohio Democratic Representative Marcia Fudge, introduced the bipartisan Go to High School, Go to College Act, which would let students use Pell grants to pay for college credits while in high school, making college more affordable.
  • Expanding Career & Tech Ed to Make College More Affordable.  In March, Senator Portman introduced – along with Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) – the bipartisan Career and Technical Education Excellence and Equity Act, to encourage our schools to partner with local businesses on apprenticeships, internships, and on developing curricula. This bill would provide funding for partnerships between school districts, employers, and institutions of higher education, so that high school students can get college credit, workplace skills, and opportunities for internships and apprenticeships. This will make college more affordable by reducing the number of credits these students will need, and will help get our young people off to a better start on their careers. It’s no wonder that this bill is supported by the Alliance for Excellent Education, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the National Skills Coalition, the Society for Women Engineers, and the Opportunity America Jobs and Career Coalition.
  • Making Students Job-Ready.  As co-founder and co-chairman of the bipartisan Senate Career & Technical Education Caucus, Senator Portman authored two federal laws to make our education system more job-oriented, including the:
  • CAREER Act, key components of which were signed into law by President Obama in July 2014 and improve federal worker retraining programs by linking federal funding to results.
  • Career Ready Act, a federal law that improved school counseling programs, and helps states keep track of career readiness in school districts.  This new law helps counselors use information on the needs of the local workforce to steer our students toward in-demand skills, and ultimately to careers. President Obama signed this bill into law in December.

Senator Portman has been hard at work helping today’s students by expanding access to college, making it more affordable, and helping new graduates get good jobs so that they can achieve financial independence and become debt-free — all without saddling them with a bigger national debt. That’s real reform.

###