News from Representative Suzanne Bonamici


Preparing for and Paying for College: News and Updates

A college education can be one of the best investments a person makes, but today too many students are discouraged by the cost of college and the prospect of ending up with a large amount of educational debt.

Years ago, I worked my way through community college, college, and law school. I had a combination of work study, grants, and student loans, and after seven years I had a very manageable amount of debt. Unfortunately, that's not an experience that many students and borrowers have today. Costs have gone up dramatically, and today's students and graduates are struggling to afford college and to pay back student loans. I'm working in Congress to improve access to affordable higher education, and I'm hoping that this update is helpful if you or someone you know is applying for college or making decisions about student loans.

One useful tool for prospective students is the College Scorecard, prepared by the U.S. Department of Education. This site has information about types of financial aid and a calculator to help estimate how much aid a prospective student might qualify for depending on several factors.

Also, for years I've heard concerns about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and how complicated it can be. I'm happy to report that there have been recent changes to the FAFSA. These updates will help many more students and families access financial aid, including grants and need-based loans, and gain a more complete picture of their options and expected costs as students prepare to enter college. For the first time, the FAFSA is available beginning October 1st instead of January 1st. Click here for more information.

At a recent discussion at Portland Community College, Oregonians talked about several ways that student debt is threatening their financial security. I was proud that the House passed my bipartisan legislation—the Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act—to provide students with regular financial counseling so they know how to borrow as little as possible and avoid riskier loans.

Another part of the solution is improving access to existing income-driven repayment plans, which offer more affordable payments to borrowers. Right now, many students do not know about these plans, and the complicated application and recertification processes make enrollment difficult. Recently I introduced the SIMPLE Act, a bipartisan bill to make it easier for more borrowers to get in and stay in these income-driven repayment plans.

Whether you're applying for college, working toward a degree or credential, or balancing student debt with living expenses—or know someone who is—I hope you will keep in touch with me about how Congress can help. I will continue working to make sure higher education is within reach for everyone.

If you would like to know more about my work around northwest Oregon and in Congress, please follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. You can also contact my Oregon and Washington, D.C. offices with questions, comments, or for assistance with a federal agency. This mailbox is not monitored. To contact me via email, please use this secure web form.

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