Bailey legislation continues drive for lower student debt

Former chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee, Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor is still working to help students avoid or reduce college-related debt as the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus Whip. The leader of the Senate majority’s successful 2015 drive to create the tuition-cutting College Affordability Program has already won initial support for new legislation aimed at helping students understand the complex college-financing system. The two bills will receive a public hearing before the Senate Ways and Means Committee Feb. 15 at 3:30 p.m.

“We made historic strides tackling student debt by cutting the costs of tuition,” said Bailey, now the committee’s vice chair. “That was a hard-won fight to address a systemic change in our state’s higher-education system. Instead of giving more loans or financial aid, we tackled a root cause of student debt – skyrocketing tuition. We capped tuition increases and invested in the system without raising taxes. That was a bold move for the college students in our state. These new bills are focused on empowering students to make good financial choices when it comes to their education financing.”

Senate Bill 5022, known as the Washington Student Loan Transparency Act, has already received unanimous support from the higher-education committee. The legislation would require higher-education institutions to provide simple and concise information about the costs of borrowing when financial awards include loans. The notification must include an estimate of the:
• Total amount of student loans;
• Potential payoff amounts;
• Monthly repayment amounts, including principal and interest; and
• Percentage of federal-loan limits a student has reached.

Senate Bill 5100 would direct colleges and universities to make financial-literacy seminars available to students, and ensure that each student has an opportunity to participate as early in the academic year as possible.

“These are small but meaningful steps to help students understand the long-term financial impacts of student debt,” Bailey said. “Students graduating with high debt are forced to delay major events in life such as home purchases or starting a family. We need these bright and educated young people to be a vital part of our state’s economy; that can’t happen without a transparent college-financing system and complete information.”