Murkowski joins lawmakers in proposing higher education bills

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - Lawmakers in Washington have proposed bills to address the rising costs of university and college education.

    The bills, the State-Based Education Loan Awareness Act and the Student Loan Repayment Freedom Act, were introduced Monday.

    U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski joined others to introduce the two bills. The Education Loan Awareness Act aims to help clear roadblocks that prevent universities from informing students about student loans offered by non-profit, and state agency lenders.

    Murkowski said in a release that she is aware of the ever-rising cost of college and the barriers that young people face in affording post-secondary education.

    "Which is why I’ve made it a priority to help make pursuing these opportunities a more attainable reality for all Alaskans. The opportunity to learn and pursue a degree or job skills should never be hampered by the fear of not being able to afford school,” said Murkowski. “It is important that we enable colleges to help students seek out affordable loans offered by the non-profit state agencies created to serve them once they have exhausted their federal student aid options."

    Sana Efird, Executive Director of the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education, said research conducted by the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education consistently reflects that Alaska’s student loan borrowers pay more than is necessary to fund their post-secondary education endeavors.

    "When our students are not appropriately and accurately informed of State and non-profit education loan programs, research indicates they are at risk of taking loans with interest rates that could be up to double those available through their state lender’s programs. ACPE supports the efforts of Senator Murkowski to ensure Alaskan students are better informed and prepared to make sound financial decisions in pursuing postsecondary education programs,” said Efird.

    Dr. Paul Layer, Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University of Alaska, said that borrowers face a daunting task of navigating the student financial loan landscape.

    "Likewise, institutions of higher education face a strict and cumbersome process of identifying lenders to borrowers. Dedicated financial aid officers at institutions work to find the right solutions and options for students. This legislation enables state-based lenders to be eligible for listing by institutions without the burdensome regulatory process used currently," he said.

    The Student Loan Repayment Freedom Act hopes to help federal student loan borrowers ensure their repayment plans fit their needs by allowing borrowers to switch from one income-based repayment plan to another, without first having to make a payment under Standard Repayment or go into forbearance.

    Murkowski said many federal student loan borrowers sign up for one of the income-based repayment plans, only to realize that as their circumstances change, another plan would better meet their needs. 

    "Unfortunately, the Department of Education requires borrowers to first move to Standard Repayment, fill out reams of paperwork, and wait for their loan servicer to process that paperwork," she said. “We need to make the process of repaying federal student loans as easy and stress-free as possible."

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