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In a letter to President Obama, Shaheen calls for details on debt management and college affordability

(Washington, DC) - With news reports signaling President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address will include a focus on the rising cost of higher education, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) today encouraged the President to work with Congress on a plan to lower student debt and shared some legislative proposals of her own on the issue. In her letter to the President, Shaheen outlined proposals that could help educate students about debt repayment options and better understand their debt situation. Shaheen suggests the development of an online portal that will allow students to review all their public and private student loans as well as repayment options. She is also considering proposals that would call for student loan lenders to offer education and consultations for borrowers that will help them stay on track to repay their loans.

“Keeping college education affordable will help our young people get the skills they need for the jobs that are critical to our economic future,” Shaheen said. “New Hampshire students are unfortunately all too familiar with the impact of debt after they finish college and we must take steps to address this crisis that hurts our economy.”

“We must make higher education more affordable and provide students in New Hampshire and around the country with the tools they need to better manage their debt,” Shaheen added.

Throughout her career Shaheen has worked to address the student loan crisis and help make college more affordable. Last year, she voted to maintain low interest rates for Stafford loans which help families pay for college tuition and also supported the Pay As you Earn repayment plan which will make it easier for students to lower their monthly expenses. According to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, students across the country hold over $1.2 trillion in student loan debt and in New Hampshire, the Project on Student Debt estimates that 74 percent of New Hampshire students leave school with an average debt of nearly $33,000.

The text of Senator Shaheen’s letter is included below:

The President

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Washington, DC 20500

Mr. President:

Our nation faces many challenges in the upcoming year, from strengthening the economy and creating jobs, to protecting our nation’s interests throughout the world.  As you prepare your State of the Union address, which will undoubtedly focus on these important issues and others, I encourage you to also outline a plan to address the ongoing crisis in our higher education system, specifically with respect to college affordability and student debt. 

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau estimates that students hold over $1.2 trillion in student loan debt.  These burdens are especially prominent in New Hampshire, where the Project on Student Debt reports that 74 percent of the state’s undergraduates leave school with debt, and carry an average balance of nearly $33,000.  My state ranks second highest for the average amount of debt per graduate.

While I supported legislation signed into law last year to help keep interest rates on undergraduate Stafford student loans affordable for middle class families, we must do more to help students entering the workforce manage their debt. 

Debt management plays an important role in a student’s ability to meet his or her financial obligations.  Too often students are automatically enrolled in a standard 10-year repayment plan which may not suit their unique situation or provide them with the flexibility they need to make their payments.

In the coming weeks I will be introducing legislation to require the development of an online portal in which students can view all of their public and private student loan debt and have access to a comprehensive list of all of the repayment options available.  A one-stop online loan portal would be an invaluable tool for borrowers. 

I will also be working to enact legislation that would require lenders to perform annual outreach and consultation for borrowers.  This personalized method could help keep students on track to repay their obligations more successfully. 

We all have a responsibility to address the student debt crisis for students in New Hampshire and throughout the country.  I am committed to implementing pragmatic reforms that benefit students and enable them to make wise and educated decisions about their future, and I hope you’ll use tomorrow’s address to outline a similar commitment.  I look forward to working with you on this important issue. 


Jeanne Shaheen

United States Senator