Sunday, February 26, 2017 || By Michael Romain & Igor Studenkov || @maywoodnews
According to a recent study by LendEDU, which describes itself as “a marketplace for student loans and student loan refinance,” 70 percent of college graduates who live in the 7th Congressional District — which covers all or parts of Maywood, Bellwood, Broadview and Melrose Park — leave school with debt. The average student debt per borrower in the district is almost $30,000.
“In 2017, more than 44 million Americans are working to repay student debt,” the LendEDU study notes. “And, the average borrower is working to repay more than $28,000 after graduation.”
Two lawmakers at the state and federal level, however, are working on plans to help ease that heavy financial burden.
U.S. Representative Danny Davis, who represents the 7th Congressional District, is working on legislation to could make it easier for first-generation college students to pay for their education and he wants his constituents’ input.
The details of the proposal are still being worked out, Davis said, but the goals are clear. The congressman wants to create something that would not only help cover tuition but things like room and board, transportation and supplies.
Davis’ Education Advisory Committee, which is working on the proposal, held a public hearing on Feb. 18 in Chicago. The congressman said that residents are welcome to call his office to share their ideas of what the bill should include.
As Davis explained during the Feb. 18 meeting, the committee is just one of the many committees he has set up to help him create legislation.
“We have advisory committees on almost everything we can think of,’ he said. “When we run for office we ask [voters] to give us the ability to represent them. The reality is, I don’t know what you think and how you feel, and what your priorities are, so I spent a great deal of time asking people how they feel.”
The idea from this particular bill, he said, came directly from conversations with constituents.
“Every year, I encounter students who went [to college] for the first semester, but couldn’t go the next semester because they were in debt to the school,” he said.
To give your input, contact Davis’s district office, located at 2746 West Madison St., at (773) 533-7520. Office hours are from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. You can also visit his website at davis.house.gov.
At the state level, Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch (7th), whose district spans all or parts of Maywood, Bellwood, Broadview and Melrose Park, has co-sponsored House Bill 3447, which would establish the Tuition Reduction Act. The bill is currently in the House Higher Education Committee, which Welch chairs.
The bill provides individual grants to full-time undergraduates in Illinois who are enrolled at public universities in order to help offset tuition costs.
The bill also requires “each university to annually report updated estimates of the total amount in grants awarded in an academic year to the governor and the appropriate committees of the General Assembly,” according to a summary of the legislation.
“As Chair of the House Higher Education Committee, I see a lot of proposals that would affect a student’s ability to enroll into one of Illinois’ many public universities,” said Welch.
“Constant tuition increases can prevent students from applying to state universities and colleges,” he added. “It can also force them to look at colleges out of the state, and many times these students do not move back to Illinois after receiving their degree.” VFP
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