Councilmember Grosso today signed on to a letter with 20 state legislators from 13 other states urging U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to withdraw her memo pre-empting state laws meant to protect student loan borrowers, such as Councilmember Grosso's Student Loan Ombudsman Establishment and Servicing Regulation law.
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Today, Councilmember David Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, sent a letter to Mayor Bowser outlining his budget priorities for the Mayor to consider for inclusion in her FY2019 budget proposal.
Ensuring that our students are in the best position to succeed remains Grosso's number one priority as the Chairperson of the Committee on Education. Fully supporting our students, teachers, and school communities means providing the necessary resources. For FY2019, Grosso asked the Mayor to:
1. Meet the non-academic needs of our students through increased investment in the Department of Behavioral Health’s School-Based Mental Health program.
2. Invest in the successful early literacy intervention program that gets students at or above reading level by third grade.
3. Give our teachers the tools to educate all our students by funding school-based special education teacher training.
4. Support the expansion of vital out-of-school time programs with increased funding for the Office of Out of School Time and Youth Outcomes.
5. Continue equitable investment in community based organizations who are providing care to at-risk pre-kindergarten children.
6. Aid child care providers by raising the subsidy reimbursement rates to more closely align with the cost of care.
Additionally, Grosso asked the Mayor to support funding for many of his policy priorities that have become law in the past few years:
1. Provide financial stability for workers caring for themselves or their family by investing fully in the implementation of the Universal Paid Leave Amendment Act of 2016.
2. Assist residents managing their educational financing by funding a separate student loan ombudsman at the Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking.
3. Support the newly established D.C. State Athletics Commission with funding for two new full-time position.
4. Provide equitable access to vital identity documents by funding fee exemptions for low-income residents.
5. Remove the influence of big dollar donors and promote equitable participation in our local elections by fully funding the Fair Elections Amendment Act of 2017
You can read the full letter to Mayor Bowser below.
For Immediate Release:
October 3, 2017
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - email@example.com
Grosso introduces legislation to aid residents’ student loan repayments
Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) today continued his push to address the looming student debt crisis by introducing legislation to assist borrowers in repaying their federal student loans.
“While we have taken a preliminary step to tackle student debt with the creation of a student loan ombudsman, we need to do more to invest in our workforce and ensure that attending college is not a financial drain on individuals and families who call D.C. home,” said Councilmember Grosso.
The Student Loan Debt Forgiveness Act of 2017 establishes a student loan forgiveness program for D.C. residents who are currently enrolled in a federal income-driven repayment plan. Qualified applicants would be eligible to receive an award equal to 100% of their monthly payment for up to 60 months if they were enrolled in a post-secondary institution after January 1, 2016.
“Growing student debt presents a serious challenge for our residents and local economy, creating a burden that follows them and stifles every aspect of their lives: buying a house, starting a business, saving for retirement, and furthering their education,” Grosso said. “What is worse is that our communities of color are being hardest hit by student debt.”
The District of Columbia maintains the highest concentration of student debtors in the country, according the U.S. Department of Education. Over 112,000 D.C. residents collectively owe $5.6 billion in federal student loans. Residents in the East End of D.C. carry twice as much debt and are three times more likely to be at least nine months behind on their loan payments as their neighbors in other parts of the city.
“This legislation, along with the work of the city’s new student loan ombudsman, could mean the difference between success and default for our residents,” said Councilmember Grosso.
Last year, the Council passed Grosso’s Student Loan Ombudsman Establishment and Servicing Regulation Act of 2016. It established a student loan ombudsman in the Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking empowered to establish licensing requirements for student loan servicers in the city. The office is also charged with informing D.C. residents about their options when seeking student loans and when working to repay them.
Student Loan Debt Forgiveness Act of 2017
Introduced: October 3, 2017
Co-introducers: Councilmembers Elissa Silverman, Brianne K. Nadeau, and Trayon White
FACT SHEET | BILL TEXT
Summary: To establish a student loan debt forgiveness program for residents of the District.
Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:
Currently, the national student debt exceeds $1.3 trillion, surpassing all other types of non-mortgage debt.
As one of the most educated cities in the U.S., the District of Columbia is home to several reputable colleges and universities; so it should come as little surprise that our residents experience significant student indebtedness.
In fact, the District of Columbia maintains the highest concentration of student debtors in the country. Just last week, the U.S. Department of Education released state-specific information on student debt, for the first time ever. According to their analysis, D.C. residents owe $5.6 billion dollars in federal student loans with 112,200 student loan borrowers in our city.
Repayment of this type of debt is challenging generally, but it is especially difficult for students who attend community college or for-profit colleges for some time, but never earn a degree or certificate.
Making matters worse, here in D.C. our communities of color are being hardest hit by student debt, as residents East of the River are three times more likely to be at least 9 months behind on their loan payments, than residents in the rest of the city who carry twice as much debt.
The negative impact of educational borrowing on a borrower’s potential wealth accumulation cannot be overstated. Carrying a high amount of student debt can severely limit an individual’s purchasing power and can have a detrimental effect on the greater economy. Increased student debt impairs home sales, decreases retirement security, stifles entrepreneurship and discourages individuals from seeking careers that require additional education.
Last year, we created a Student Loan Ombudsman position within the Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking and required student loan servicers to become licensed to ensure that servicers are responsive, acting according to clear standards and not creating obstacles to repayment and driving borrowers into default.
While this was certainly a critical step and I am thrilled that Dr. Charles Burt has been hired as the Student Loan Ombudsman, we need to do more to ensure that attending college is not a financial drain on individuals and families, especially families that may have little to no experience with college.
That is why today, along with my colleagues Brianne Nadeau, Trayon White and Elissa Silverman, I am introducing the Student Loan Debt Forgiveness Act of 2017.
This bill establishes a student loan forgiveness program for D.C. residents who are currently enrolled in a federal income-driven repayment plan and meet other eligibility guidelines.
The program will be administered by the Office of the State Superintendent for Education and qualified applicants would be eligible to receive an award equal to 100% of their monthly payment for up to 60 months.
Passage of this legislation, coupled with the work of the Student Loan Ombudsman, ensures that we are protecting our student loan borrowers to the fullest extent and providing them additional opportunities for success.
Councilmember Grosso sent a letter to the Department of Insurance, Securities, and Banking (DISB) raising concerns over the dual-expertise qualification needed for the District of Columbia's Student Loan Ombudsman that could delay hiring of the vital position.
Legislation introduced by Councilmember Grosso and passed by the Council last year created an ombudsman in DISB empowered to establish licensing requirements for student loan servicers in the city. They are also charged with informing D.C. residents about their options when seeking student loans and when working to repay them.
DISB advertised the position as a "Student Loan and Foreclosure Ombudsman", requiring applicants to have qualifications in both fields, a move that Councilmember Grosso feels will yield no qualified candidates and thus delay the hiring of a student loan ombudsman.
"The District of Columbia, one of the most educated cities in the U.S., is the most indebted jurisdiction when it comes to average federal student loan debt," wrote Grosso. "The 140,000 student loan borrowers residing in D.C. owe an average of $40,885, about 40 percent higher than the national average."
Recent actions by the Trump Administration to halt a planned overhaul to student loan management initiated under President Barack Obama have cast the system into doubt and made the need fir a dedicated student loan ombudsman in D.C. even more important.
"Now more than ever, a dedicated Student Loan Ombudsman is necessary to ensure that our residents will be able to lodge complaints and receive vital educational information as it relates to their student loans. Further, this role will enable the District of Columbia to take a critical step in protecting student loan borrowers by creating servicer accountability and providing stringent oversight of this industry," Grosso wrote.
Read the councilmember's full letter below.