Vermont college graduates owe $2.5 billion in student loan debt.
Aya AL-Namee will be one of those graduates next year. She will be graduating from UVM next spring.
The Environmental Science major, and Student Body President, expects to be looking at $40,000 in college loan debt.
“I don't think students should be punished for seeking degrees and seeking more education and it certainly feels like that, as someone who's very burdened by loans,” said AL-Namee.
On Wednesday she stood alongside Congressman Peter Welch to present his student loan reform bill.
It's called the Bank On Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act.
“This is about relief,” said Rep. Peter Welch (D – Vermont). “It's not about forgiveness. It's no different than you having a mortgage at a higher rate and refinancing to a lower rate. You still owe the money."
Congressman Welch says his bill would lower student loan rates from their current rate of 4.66% down to 3.86% which is back to where rates were this spring.
Earlier this year, this bill died in the Senate, where it's spearheaded by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D – Massachusetts).
Republicans oppose the bill because in order to compensate for the loss in revenue, the bill would enact the "Buffett Rule” - a tax increase for the wealthy.
“It's asking the folks to pay the same rate as the people who work for them,” said Rep. Welch.
So Welch says getting the bill passed in Washington will be an uphill battle.
But reforming the $1.2 trillion student loan program is a top priority.
“We've got to hang in,” said Welch. “We know it's tough. But that doesn't mean we dodge or duck. We've got to do this."
If she could refinance, Aya would likely save a few thousand dollars. But no matter what, she won't let debt get in the way of her goals.
“As scary as it sounds from the outside, you have to do it,” said AL-Namee.
Welch says the bill would lower costs for students by $51 billion nationwide and reduce the federal deficit.
The bill is currently in committee hearings.
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