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Choosing a House, Car or an Education: The Crisis of Student Loan Debt

By:  Arit Essien*

Move over buying a house or a new car.  The privilege of pursuing a higher education has now become one of the largest investments in a person’s lifetime.

While the advantages of higher education are well-noted, the looming student debt following college has become increasingly problematic, particularly for millennials eager to set foot towards pursuing the American dream of homeownership after school.

The statistics are worrisome.  Between 2002 and 2012, the National Center for Education Statistics reported a 40 percent increase in public school tuition, and a 28 percent increase at private schools—a rate four times faster than inflation.  In 2013, Forbes calculated outstanding student loan debt in the United States to be in excess of $1.2 trillion, which exceeds total credit card debt in the nation.  According to the New York Federal Reserve Bank, 37 percent of the 43 million people currently repaying these loans have experienced delinquency or default at some point. For millennials, this can translate into offset or delay of critical life events such as purchasing a home, marriage or the decision to have children. 

In the realm of financial obligations, student loans are in a league of their own.  Unlike traditional debt, student loans cannot be discharged in bankruptcy, due in part to the bankruptcy reform bill of 2005.  Prior to passage of the bill, only federal student loans were exempted from discharge.  Additionally, for private loan recipients, options such as deferment, forbearance or income-based repayment are less frequently available.  Private loans traditionally also cannot be discharged upon death, so virtually there is no escape from repayment. 

Though hope of student loan reform may seem elusive, several proposals offer promise.  One proposed solution is to link state and federal aid to accountability metrics such as student graduation rates.  This could motivate schools receiving loan fees, despite the subsequent fate of their student, to play a greater role in the accountability of both the amount of money that students borrow and in ensuring that the overall benefits derived from the education is commensurate. Private loans however, which offer greater risks for borrowers, are overlooked in this approach.  

At-Large Councilmember David Grosso encourages student loan reform initiatives that will help borrowers and millennials keep money in their pockets for important life events and obligation. According to Grosso, “If borrowers have to expend a large portion of their income on student loan payment, it can be economically disadvantageous.  When former students default on their obligations, the burdens then shifts to taxpayers. We have to explore creative solutions that will afford lenders timely repayment, without stealing the American Dream from those who worked so hard to obtain it by pursuing their education.”


What are your solutions for improving the student loan structure?
Twitter: @cmdgrosso

*This post is part of an ongoing series of posts by Councilmember Grosso’s staff to support professional development. All posts are approved and endorsed by Councilmember Grosso.



The Importance of Financial Literacy

By: Matthew Nolan*

As April is Financial Literacy Month, I wanted to explore its value, identify what it really means to me and highlight programs available to all D.C. residents.  Financial literacy is the knowledge of financial and economic matters. This is becoming more and more important to people around me. I am a junior in high school right now and money is a big concern for me and many of my classmates. This year we are breaking down our college options and a big part of what we are looking at is the huge price tag associated with many schools. I need to make sure that I assess all of my options before taking the step to college, but I cannot if I do not know how I will be able to pay for college, or what my financial situation will be after college. School Without Walls, and all other DCPS and D.C. charter schools have a D.C. College Access Program advisor, a person specifically employed to help students get through the financial obstacle of applying for college. This person helps people who may not be able to have afforded college find the way to pay for it so that all students have the opportunity to avail themselves of a higher education. With initiatives like college access, students in the public school system are becoming more financially aware and are being helped with the college process, it is a win-win situation.

Financial literacy is extremely important. Managing your money is essential to becoming a fully independent adult. As I look ahead to college, I recognize that preparing myself now is key because this is the beginning of my road to financial success in the long run. I need to learn the ins and outs of the financial world before I get to college and have to use all the information I have been provided. If we are not financially literate we will struggle with money management, which could potentially leave us stuck in debt from college and other big investments like buying a house or a car. These are important undertakings in life but lots of people are going into these financial transactions without the full knowledge needed. That is why we need to have more public and widely known programs that can teach the public how to be financially literate and how to use the money that they have to get the best opportunities.

Recognizing the importance of financial literacy, the District of Columbia established the D.C. Financial Literacy Council through the enactment of the Financial Literacy Council Establishment Act of 2008.  While this is an important step.  There is still more work to do. 
I am personally grateful to have a college access program advisor; however, in a report card released in 2015, the District of Columbia received an F for their efforts to produce financially literate high school graduates.  This was due in part to the fact that high school courses on personal finance are not required to be taken as a graduation requirement.  Additionally, there is no personal finance content in the social studies standards though economics is included as an elective. 

As the cost of living rises, the cost of a college education increases and wages remain stagnant, it is critical that we are equipping our residents, both young and old with the information they need to gain financial independence, invest wisely and prepare for their futures.

 *This post is part of an ongoing series of posts by Councilmember Grosso’s staff to support professional development. All posts are approved and endorsed by Councilmember Grosso.




Grosso to Hold Hearing on Lead in Schools this June

For Immediate Release
April 22, 2016

Contact: Keenan Austin 
(202) 724-8105

Grosso to Hold Hearing on Lead in Schools this June


Washington, D.C. -- Councilmember David Grosso, Chairperson of the Committee on Education stated today that he will hold a joint hearing with the Committee on Transportation and the Environment on the testing of lead levels in all of D.C.'s traditional and charter public schools.  This hearing is a follow up to on-the-record questioning inquiries made by the Committee on Education to D.C. administrators during performance and budget oversight hearings regarding the testing of lead levels in schools. Representatives from D.C. Public Schools, the Public Charter School Board, D.C. Department of Energy, and the Department of General Services will be called to testify.

"It is well documented and widely reported that the impact of lead has grave consequences on a child's mental and physical development.  As government leaders, we have a responsibility to protect our most valuable resource --our children--by exhaustively testing all water in our schools. I have called on DCPS and PCSB leadership to oversee the completion of testing all waters sources and report back to the Committee in June about the status of their schools. Parents, teachers, our community and, most importantly, our young people deserve the assurance that their government is acting in their best interest."





Sign Up to Testify at the Education Committee budget hearings!

Mayor Bowser has released her FY2017 Proposed Budget and Financial Plan for public education. In a continued effort to engage the community and stakeholders in the budget-making process, Councilmember David Grosso, Chair of the Committee on Education, will hold a series of budget hearings throughout the month of April. If you would like to testify at any of these hearings, please fill out the online google form located here:

Please note: The witness list will close 24 hours before the start of each hearing, so please sign up to testify in a timely manner. The Committee on Education will not add names to the list after it is closed. There will be no exceptions. For your convenience, a confirmation email with instructions will be emailed to all public witnesses at least 48 hours before the start of each hearing.

Budget Hearings

Tuesday, April 12 at 10:00am: Public Charter School Board (Room 123)

Tuesday, April 12 at 10:00am: State Board of Education (Room 123)

Wednesday, April 13 at 10:00am: District of Columbia Public Library (Room 120)

Wednesday, April 13 at 10:00am: Deputy Mayor for Education (Room 120)

Thursday, April 14 10:00 am: DCPS- Public Witnesses Only (Room 412)*

Thursday, April 14 5:00 pm: DCPS- Public Witnesses Only (Room 412)*

Monday, April 18 at 10:00am: Office of the State Superintendent for Education (Room 412)

Thursday, April 21 at 10:00am: DCPS- Government Witnesses Only (Room 412)

 *The DCPS budget hearing on Thursday, April 14, 2016 will have identical hearings at 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., so please only select one session.

If you are unable to testify at the hearing, written statements are encouraged and will be made a part of the official record. Written statements can be emailed to Jessica Giles, Committee Assistant, at or mailed to the Committee on Education, Council of the District of Columbia, Suite 116 of the John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20004. The record typically closes 10 business days after each hearing.



MEDIA ADVISORY: Results Released on the Impact of the Healthy Schools Act of 2010

For Immediate Release

February 9, 2016

Contact: Keenan Austin

(202) 724-8105



Results Released on the Impact of the Healthy Schools Act of 2010

WASHINGTON, D.C. - This year marks the fifth anniversary of the Healthy Schools Act (HSA), a law enacted to reduce obesity rates among students attending public and public charter schools in the District of Columbia. The HSA sought to combat those trends by increasing student access to healthy meals, providing physical education and health-classes, and requiring physical activity during the school day. On February 9th, researchers from American University will present the findings of a five-year independent study, funded by Kaiser Permanente, on the implementation and effects of the HSA.

WHO:                  Councilmember Mary M. Cheh

                          Councilmember Yvette Alexander

                          Councilmember David Grosso

                          Celeste A. James, Director
                          Kaiser Permanente, Mid-Atlantic States

                          Anastasia Snelling, Ph.D., R.D.,  Professor
                          Dean, American University School of Education
                          Chair, American University Department of Health Studies

                          Sarah Irvine Belson, Ph.D.
                          Associate Professor
                          Executive Director, American University
                          Institute for Innovation in    

                           Amanda Delabar
                           Principal,  Tubman Elementary School

WHAT:             Presentation of research findings on the
                           implementation and impact of
                           the Healthy Schools Act

WHEN:             Tuesday, February 9th at 12:00 pm

WHERE:           Mayor's Press Briefing Room - Room G9

                           John A. Wilson Building

                           1350 Pennsylvania Ave, NW







On Military Preference, A Military Brat Perspective

I often describe myself as Brooklyn born, Southern raised. I loved spending my younger years in a city that was so diverse and rich with culture, but what really influenced my path was becoming a military kid, albeit reluctantly. When I was in the third grade my mother joined the United States Army. At the time I could only see that decision as an inconvenience to my 8-year old world, a feeling that only grew as we began to move about every two years further and further into the Deep South. 



Grosso's opening statement at the markup of B21-361, the Youth Suicide Prevention and School Climate Survey Amendment Act of 2015

Good afternoon. The time is now 2:07pm, we are in Room 123 of the John A. Wilson Building, and I am calling this additional meeting of the Committee on Education to order.

I’m David Grosso, Chairman of the committee on Education. I’d like to recognize the presence of a quorum. We have two items on our agenda today.

First on the agenda is Bill 21-361, the Youth Suicide Prevention and School Climate Survey Amendment Act of 2015. This legislation was introduced by myself and Councilmembers Allen, McDuffie, Bonds, Cheh, Nadeau, May, Todd, Silverman, and Chairman Mendelson.



The Education Powerball

Last week, we watched the nation get caught up in the Powerball lottery pandemonium.  Office pools were created.  Jokes were made about the probability of being a winner.  Some had genuine hope that maybe this would be their lucky day.  Many of these actions and reactions are not unlike what D.C. parents go through in preparation for the MySchool D.C. common education lottery.  The anticipation is palpable the night results are posted online. Parents across the city are feverishly refreshing their internet browsers with the high hopes that their child “matched” to the public school or public charter school of their choice.  And in that moment, when the results are revealed as a parent you feel like a total winner or a total loser.  



Grosso's opening statement from the hearing on B21-0508, "School Attendance Clarification Amendment Act of 2015"

Good morning. The time is now 10:00 am and I am calling this joint hearing of the Committee on Education and the Committee of the Whole to order.

My name is Councilmember David Grosso, chairman of the Committee on Education. Today is January 21, 2016 and we are in Room 500 of the John A. Wilson Building. We are gathered today for a hearing on Bill 21-508, the “School Attendance Clarification Amendment Act of 2015.” I introduced this legislation along with Chairman Mendelson.

Over the past year, the interagency Truancy Taskforce has been meeting to discuss ways to better streamline our approach to truancy and boost overall student attendance. We’ve evaluated data, researched best practices, reviewed our current laws, policies, and practices for attendance, and are close to agreeing to a robust strategic plan in this area.

This legislation amends the District of Columbia’s compulsory school attendance laws to make changes based on the interagency lessons learned over the past two years.

In addition to clarifying agency responsibilities and attendance reporting requirements, this bill would require schools to obtain a written explanation verifying the reason for an absence within five days after a student’s return to school and prohibit the suspension, expulsion, or unenrollment of a minor covered by the District’s compulsory attendance requirement due to an unexcused absence or late arrival to school.

This legislation also takes steps to decriminalize school attendance by amending the protocol for law enforcement officers who come in contact with a minor they believe to be truant and amending educational institution’s referral requirement for CFSA, Court Social Services, and the Office of the Attorney General after a minor accrues a certain number of unexcused absences.

This builds upon emergency and temporary legislation the Council passed earlier this year to address the unintended consequences of the 80/20 attendance rule, which has accounted for young people being referred to CFSA and CSS for educational neglect when in reality they have just been tardy.

As I have said before, chronic absenteeism and chronic tardiness are inherently different. They generally have different causes and students are in need of different interventions. The key word here is intervention. We know from data that introducing students to the juvenile justice system for tardiness or absenteeism is not an effective intervention. We also know that suspending or expelling a student for not showing up to school is not particularly effective in getting them to change behavior and actually come to school more often.

Students need to attend school daily in order to succeed academically, and this legislation attempts to better align our laws with this belief. I admit that this legislation is not perfect. In my ideal world, we would be getting rid of referrals to Court Social Services altogether in favor of effective intervention and diversion programs that has the capacity to serve the volume of students in need of those services. But, I believe this legislation presents a strong step in the right direction.

I want to thank you all for being here today. I will now turn to my colleague who is co-chairing along with me for an opening statement.



Grosso's opening statement from the introduction of the "Protecting Students Digital Privacy Act of 2016"

Thank you Chairman Mendelson. Today, I am also introducing the “Protecting Students Digital Privacy Act of 2016.

There are four main components to this legislation. First, this legislation requires that any contract or agreement between a local education agency and a student information system provider expressly authorize and require the provider to establish, implement, and maintain appropriate security measures to protect student data and personally identifiable student information and to comply with certain procedures with regard to accessing, analyzing, storing, or sharing that information.

Second, it limits an educational institution or a vendor that provides a technological device to a student for oversight or home use from accessing or tracking the device, and analyzing, selling, or sharing the activity or data, except in limited circumstances. 

This bill also prohibits a school from requiring or coercing a student or prospective student to disclose the user name or password to a personal social media account, add school-based personnel to their list of contacts, or to change the settings that affect a third party’s ability to view the account. 

Finally, this legislation would prohibit school employees from accessing or compelling a student to produce, display, share or provide access to, any data or other content stored upon, or accessible from a student’s personal technological device, even when the device is being carried or used in violation of a school’s policy, except for in limited circumstances.

There are some in the education space—schools and vendors alike—who have this notion that students leave their right to privacy at the schoolhouse door. That the only way to truly educate a young person is to have absolute control and constantly monitor their inputs and outputs. I simply don’t believe that to be the case. 

Further, I do not believe that third party vendors or organizations providing technology or software to our schools should have unfettered access to sell, analyze, or share the data they receive from our students. This bill takes steps to put safeguards in place. 

Now I must say, nothing in this legislation gives anyone a privacy right for online websites, accounts, or social media pages that are unsecured. It is not an invasion of privacy for an educational institution, a teacher, or anyone else to view material that has been voluntarily put on public display. And so even while I introduce this legislation today, I still want to advise the students who may be listening that discretion and a slow trigger finger remains wise.

I want to thank the ACLU for working with my office on this legislation. I look forward to a spirited debate on this issue. And I welcome any co-sponsors.



Grosso Introduces Bill to Improve School Attendance

Today, Councilmember David Grosso and Chairman Phil Mendelson introduced the “School Attendance Clarification Amendment Act of 2015.” This legislation amends the District of Columbia’s compulsory school attendance laws based on lessons learned from the implementation of the South Capitol Street Memorial Amendment Act of 2012 and the Attendance Accountability Act of 2013. Many elements of the bill came from the work of the interagency Truancy Taskforce, which has been meeting over the past year to improve D.C.’s response to school attendance.



D.C. Grosso Welcomes Process Changes on School Modernizations

Today, the Committee on Education along with the Committee on Transportation and the Environment held a joint oversight roundtable on District of Columbia Public School (DCPS) modernizations. This followed the Committees' joint oversight roundtable on the topic on July 8, 2015, when the D.C. Auditor released her report on the lack of accountability and transparency within the DCPS modernization program in fiscal years 2010-2013.



High School Scores a Sobering but Necessary Performance Reality Check

For Immediate Release: 
Contact: Darby Hickey
(202) 724-8105

High School Scores a Sobering but Necessary Performance Reality Check

Washington, D.C.--Councilmember David Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, released the following statement on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) high school scores for the District of Columbia:
"As expected, today's release of PARCC high school scores is nothing to cheer about; however, we must remember that this is a recalibrating moment in our city for assessment of progress in the public education system. When the District of Columbia transitioned to the PARCC assessment, we knew that the test would be more difficult. But we also knew that it was important for us to raise our standards to ensure that our students are honestly "college and career ready." These results present a more accurate indication of how much work we still have to do. It is not an indication of students learning less, but rather a better understanding of where we need to be in the long run.
I am confident that our educators and school leaders will get to work and use these new scores and data to continue to improve. This is simply a new baseline. And it is important to remember that the PARCC assessment is not our only indicator of success or progress. We must continue to look towards NAEP/TUDA data, high school graduation rates, and other indicators that show public education in D.C. is constantly improving.
I am committed to supporting the work of our public schools, and continuing to push and innovate in other areas of our government whose work impacts our students. If we want to see these results improve, schools cannot be the only place where we tackle the achievement gap. Every single resident has to be committed to doing all we can to ensure that every child in the city is in the best position to learn."