Trenton – Calling it a strong first step to helping working families and students avoid crushing college loan debt, the New Jersey State AFL-CIO today praised the Assembly Higher Education Committee’s approval of legislation to require colleges to provide detailed information to prospective students regarding the true costs of attendance.
“Too many working families and students find themselves at the bottom of a deep hole of debt because of hidden costs for college that they neither anticipated nor even knew about,” said Charles Wowkanech, president of the New Jersey State AFL-CIO. “Crushing student loans are preventing graduates from being able to put their earnings into savings for their futures, or back into our economy to grow new jobs. And for those who couldn’t afford to finish college but still have to pay back their loans, those payments are a constant reminder of a dream delayed.”
The bill is sponsored by Assembly members Joseph Cryan and Annette Quijano (both D-Union), Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex), Joseph Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic), and committee Chairwoman Celeste Riley (D-Gloucester/Cumberland/Salem).
Wowkanech said the measure is also needed to protect workers who returned to college after losing their jobs in the recession – nationally, there was a 1.2 million increase in enrollment among students aged 25 and up in just 2007 to 2008.
“Many older New Jerseyans returned to school when their jobs were lost in the recession,” said Wowkanech. “They already face an uncertain future in their new fields, and it’s just being made worse by loans they may never be able to fully repay.”
Nationally, the average student loan saddles each graduate with more than $26,000 in debt.
Under the legislation (A-668), all public colleges and universities would be required to create a “shopping sheet” regarding the costs attending that school, including tuition, room and board, and associated fees. The sheet would also include applicable savings from scholarships, and financing options, along with estimates of the student’s total debt and monthly loan repayment schedule.
Schools would also disclose their actual graduation rates, student retention rates, and student loan default rates.
“We simply cannot have an entire generation of workers who can’t afford to get ahead because college loans keep pushing them back,” said Wowkanech. “This is a common sense bill to help working families properly prepare for their futures.”