Brown introduces higher education bills to cut debt


Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) speaks during the Dorchester County Democrats’ First Annual Oyster Roast in Summerville, SC, March 2, 2019. Brown stopped to speak during his “Dignity of Work” listening tour.

Laina Yost

Sen. Sherrod Brown proposed several higher education bills in the Senate as Congress begins to take another look at the Higher Education Act.

Brown co-sponsored the Debt-Free College Act on March 6, which provides state incentives to match grants to increase investments in higher education.

In Ohio, state funding decreased .1 percent from 2017 to 2018. The state provides universities incentives for students graduating in four years.

In the proposed legislation, states would receive one-to-one federal match for its higher education appropriations, which is state funding toward public universities. It would partner states and the federal government.

Matching grants would cover costs for students, including tuition, room and board, books and supplies.

“Hard work can’t pay off if you’re drowning in college debt,” Brown said in a press conference. “You ought to be able to go to a public university, and graduate debt-free. To do that, we have to make college more affordable. Americans are working hard to get an education and build a better life for themselves, and for that hard work to pay off, we have to get the cost of college under control.”

Sen. Dick Durbin, Sen. Brian Schatz and Rep. Mark Pocan introduced the legislation, and 42 Congress members also sponsored the bill.


2020 presidential candidates Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand all supported the proposed legislation.


Brown also plans to announce legislation that would allow student borrowers to move their student loan rates down to what rates are currently offered. It would also let private borrowers move their loans to the Federal Direct Loan program.


Lastly, Brown is cosponsoring the Housing for Homeless Students Act, which would allow full-time students to be eligible for the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit.


Congress is considering reauthorizing the Higher Education Act, which regulates federal financial aid. The Committee on Education and Labor released a report on March 8 that details proposed changes to the bill by Democrats.

Some of the proposed changes to the act, which passed in 1965 and was reauthorized in 2008, include expanding access to education and improving college affordability.

President Donald Trump released his fiscal year 2020 budget proposal, which called for more than a $7 billion cut in education spending and would eliminate the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.

The budget will go through Congress, which has a Democratic majority, and will likely face several changes.

Five hearings will be held in Congress this week on higher education issues, including on the cost of college, student completion and accountability in higher education.

Laina Yost is a senior reporter. Contact her at [email protected]