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Rep. Ing Urges Support of Debt-Free College Proposal

Posted December 9, 2015, 04:11 PM HST
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Rep. Kaniela Ing.

Rep. Kaniela Ing.

State Representative Kaniela Ing spoke alongside lawmakers across the nation during a press call on Tuesday morning in support of US Senator Brian Schatz’s Debt-free college proposal.

The press conference was coordinated by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, an organization that worked with Schatz’s office to introduce the college initiative.

Ing said he plans to introduce a resolution in support of the federal initiative, along with a bill to achieve similar goals at the state level during the upcoming legislative session. Lawmakers from nine other states announced that they will be doing the same in their respective legislative bodies.

As a recent University of Hawaiʻi graduate, Rep. Ing has acquired more than $45,000 of student debt through his undergraduate and graduate studies.

“I would not have been able to graduate college if I had not worked part time, aggressively solicited scholarships, and obtained Pell Grants,” said Rep. Ing. “Neither of my parents graduated from college, so I viewed higher education as a ticket to the middle class. But UH tuition has tripled in the past decade, and crippling student debt is keeping young people from buying homes or starting businesses. Today’s degrees are hardly tickets, or even receipts; too often, they’re bills,” he said.

“Higher education should propel young people forward, not set them further back. Our system’s disincentives for education are completely backwards. It’s past time for America to join many other industrial nations, who see education as a right, and implement debt-free college,” said Rep. Ing in a press release statement.

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Debt-free college has been identified as a primary 2016 campaign issue across the nation and is polling with 71% of Americans in support, according to Rep. Ing, [citing Demos, 2015]. In Hawaiʻi, the average four-year student debt is around $23,000, although the majority of students take six years or more to obtain a Bachelor’s degree, according to Rep. Ing.

“Student debt may lead to our nation’s next economic crisis unless we do something about it now. It is encouraging to see all three Democratic presidential candidates supporting Senator’s Schatz debt-free college initiative, but with today’s grid-lock in Congress, meaningful change will have to come from the States. Momentum debt-free college is rising, and the time to act is now,” he said.

Ing plans on having a number of his colleagues, who expressed interest, co-sign the resolution once session begins in January.

The proposal includes increasing the number of advanced placement courses and early college high school programs that are offered, ensuring that schools aren’t using federal money for advertising or other non-essential expenses, and requiring schools with large endowments to guarantee debt-free college.

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