Denver, Co — Yesterday, State Senator Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, introduced a bill in committee to establish a streamlined process for the distribution of informational materials regarding federal student loan forgiveness programs. Under existing federal programs, college graduates with student loan debt can have their loans forgiven if they work in the public sector or for a non-profit organization. Unfortunately, the bill died along a party-line vote.
“With 70% of students graduating from Colorado public institutions with an average debt of $26,000, we need to step in and help provide Coloradans with basic information on how to handle this financial burden,” said Senator Fenberg.
SB17-147 would have required the Department of Personnel to develop basic informational materials about the federal student loan forgiveness program and distribute these materials to state and other public sector employees. The bill also directs employers such as universities, local and county governments, and school districts to pass on these materials to employees who can then become aware of their loan forgiveness options and have the information necessary to apply.
Senator Fenberg explained that “even though many of our state and public employees–including teachers–are eligible to have much of their loans forgiven, they’re often unaware of such options.”
During committee, one Colorado public school teacher spoke to her experience in which she would have qualified for both the Public Service Loan Forgiveness and the Teacher Loan Forgiveness programs if only she had known her options. Due to simply never being informed by her employer, she has exhausted her savings paying off her loans. If she had known that she was eligible earlier, she could have had thousands of dollars forgiven and saved that money for retirement or her children’s college.
University of Colorado recent graduate, Linsi Bowers, testified in support of the bill. Linsi stated that “student loan debt is the problem of my generation. To quote South African student Khaya Dlanga, ‘when you make education inaccessible, you make prosperity only possible for the already prosperous.’” She recognized that “Senate Bill 17-147 [would help] ensure that Coloradans like me who can’t afford higher education without taking out loans and who want to work in public service have the resources we need to responsibly pay off our loans, rather than letting the debt put us behind when we worked so hard to move forward.”
“Just like employers already provide information on health insurance plans, the bill would simply add information about existing student loan forgiveness programs to the list of what we notify employees about,” said Senator Fenberg.
Senator Fenberg will continue to pursue common sense legislation on student loan debt to ensure that the opportunities presented by higher education are not outweighed by the growing cost of it. This bill was cosponsored by Senators Donovan, Jones, Kagan, Kerr, Moreno and had support from St. Vrain Valley School District, Boulder Valley Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, and New Era Colorado.