Ohio’s 15th Congressional District has more than its fair share of colleges, universities, and career and technical training centers. From four-year universities like Ohio University and The Ohio State University, to community colleges and technical career centers like Hocking College and the Tri-County Career Center, students in Central and Southeast Ohio have plenty of options to pursue education and chase their American Dream. 

I’ve recently had the opportunity to meet with students, and across the board, student loan debt is a pressing concern. This problem is widespread; 44.7 million Americans have student debt, and Americans owe more than $1.5 trillion in student loans. 

I believe that students should be focused on their ideas and innovations, not on how much interest they are collecting on student loans. I know firsthand the stress that the cost of college causes. In fact, one of the reasons I joined the Ohio Army National Guard was to help pay for my undergraduate degree at Ohio State. 

To help alleviate some of that stress, I introduced the Decreasing Employees Burdensome Taxes from Student Loans Act. This bipartisan bill encourages employers to contribute up to $10,000 per year to their employee’s student loans as a non-taxable benefit.

This means that a graduate could receive up to $10,000 per year in loan repayments, without having taxes withheld from their paycheck on the funds. It also increases the maximum deduction of student loan interest from $2,500 to $5,000, allowing more young professionals to benefit from these programs. For those students who decide that higher education is the best path forward, we cannot allow the potential of debt to stifle their potential to create the next big thing. 

However, for those students who are considering higher education, they should go in with their eyes open about the costs and future earning potential. That’s why I also cosponsored the College Transparency Act to help students and their families better understand what they are signing up for and if it is a worthwhile investment. This bill would direct colleges and universities to securely report privacy-protected, student-level data to the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) about things like average debt and average starting salary after graduation.

NCES would then securely store the information, work with federal agencies to generate post-college outcomes reports and organize the information clearly on an easily-accessible website. Student debt is a real problem, but it is not inevitable. This legislation will equip students with the resources to find the right education for them at the right price. 

Students in the 15th Congressional District, and those on campuses across the country, are on the verge of the next best thing and there will be enormous benefits for our nation as a result; we need to make sure student loan debt is not hindering their potential. 

I promise that I will continue working to make college more affordable. To learn more about the Student Loan Debt Relief Act, or other efforts on college affordability, you can call my Washington, D.C. office at 202-225-2015.

Congressman Steve Stivers writes a weekly column published in The Logan Daily News. The views of this column may not necessarily reflect that of the newspaper.

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