Durbin, Duckworth Address Higher Ed Costs At Parkland
Two of Illinois’ leading Democrats are seeking new ways to make college more affordable, and cut down an estimated $1.2 trillion in student loan debt. U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth met with a panel of students at Parkland College in Champaign Thursday to hear their greatest concerns.
Both are co-sponsors of the ‘In the Red Act’ (S.2677 & H.R. 5106), a bill unveiled in March by Wisconsin Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin. It lets student loan borrowers refinance their debt at lower rates, increase Pell Grants, and let community college students attend two years free. Durbin says if it passes, the measure will help those who put in the work.
“You have to be a real student, and stay in school, and show that you’re doing your best and getting good grades to show for it," he said. So it’s not an absolute free ride, but it’s there. And it means for some young students, a chance to get the first two years, a running start – not dragging debt into the next two years.”
Senator Durbin and Duckworth, a candidate for U.S. Senate this fall against Republican Mark Kirk, say they’re most surprised by the rising cost of college textbooks, including one Parkland student who said paid $660 this semester for four books – and she rented one of them.
At a time when many students purchase textbooks on line, they point out their financial aid has to be spent at the college bookstore, and not on Amazon.
Durbin says 65-percent of students don’t buy textbooks, and try to get by without it, due to the cost.
“Unless (the textbook) is in the latest in brain surgery, you have to ask yourself – why in the world would a textbook cost an average of $150?" he said. "It is a ripoff. The faculty has the responsibility for picking textbooks, the administration has responsibility in finding ways for affordable alternatives.”
Duckworth told the students Congress is listening.
“Many of you are the vanguard in your families for future students to come," she said. "And if you find that it’s too overwhelming, and you’re not successful. Then the rest of your families, your siblings, or your future children won’t go to school.”
Duckworth notes many parents of students are parties on student loans, meaning they can’t save for their own retirements, or care for elderly family members.