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Published: Monday, 4/21/2014 - Updated: 7 months ago

BROWN WARNS OF STUDENT LOAN DEBT

Senator touts legislation aimed at reducing costs

BY MATT THOMPSON
BLADE STAFF WRITER
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, left, talks to Perrysburg High students about student loan costs on Monday. Behind him is Owens graduate Kelly McVicker, center, and Michelle Simmons, BGSU vice president of enrollment management. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, left, talks to Perrysburg High students about student loan costs on Monday. Behind him is Owens graduate Kelly McVicker, center, and Michelle Simmons, BGSU vice president of enrollment management.
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Perrysburg High School freshman Alyssa Knappins had some advice for her older sister about her college search after listening to U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) talk Monday about legislation aimed at making the student loan process more affordable.

“I’ll tell her she needs to do a lot of research on her loans, put some more money aside, and be careful about which [student] loans she takes,” young Knappins said she would tell her sister, Jordan Knappins, a junior at Perrysburg who was in class during the program.

Mr. Brown spoke to about 40 students, administration, and board of education members in the Perrysburg High library about two pieces of legislation that would reduce student loan expenses through increased information and refinancing options.

He is trying to raise support and awareness for the Know Before You Owe Act and the Refinancing Education Funding to Invest for the Future Act. He also urged students to take out federal loans whenever possible, which he said are more predictable and have fewer fees and lower rates than private loans.

“Students are graduating with huge debt so it slows them down for buying a house, getting married, and starting a family,” Mr. Brown said. “Student loan debt is more than $1 trillion.”

The Know Before You Owe Act, co-sponsored by Mr. Brown and U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin (D., Ill.) would require colleges to “clearly” inform borrowers of the difference between the risks involving federal loan rates as opposed to private loans.

The Refinancing Education Funding to Invest for the Future Act, which Mr. Brown sponsored, would allow student loan debts to be refinanced — similar to refinancing a home to get the best deal.

Kelly McVicker, 30, of Toledo, who received a two-year degree in criminology from Owens Community College, also spoke at the event. He said he originally spent about $46,000 in private student loans, but with fees and penalties, he owes about $70,000.

“The Know Before You Owe bill would have really helped me, I didn’t know what I was doing,” he said. “The REFI act would help me right now. I’m paying this person and that person — it would be combined into one payment.”

Mr. Brown said the average graduating student has a debt of $30,000. He believes these two pieces of legislation will help lower that figure because borrowers will be better informed.

“It is important for students and parents to realize their options,” the senator said after the program.

Perrysburg High School Principal Michael Short spoke highly of the bills as he introduced Mr. Brown. He said with sending his own children to college, he wants to make sure the return on his investment improves.

“I’m extremely grateful for Senator Brown’s efforts,” he said. “I paid $62 a month on my student loans, and it was a good return investment. I hope that can continue for others in the future.”

Mr. Brown said the bills are in the preliminary sponsorship stages and are not yet scheduled to go before the legislature.

“I learned student loans can be a big problem,” Alyssa Knappins said. “I’m glad they are working together to try to find something helping students to afford them.”

Contact Matt Thompson at: mthompson@theblade.com, 419-356-8786, or on Twitter at @mthompson25.



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