WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Ami Bera (D-CA) and Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) are leading the effort in Congress to support students who are working their way through school.
“Far too many students and graduates are already struggling to pay for the high cost of higher education in America – we shouldn’t be penalizing those students who have to work in order to pay for their tuition and living expenses,” said Representative Bera. “Increasing access to affordable education is core to rebuilding our middle class and that means a student’s decision to take paid work and gain work experience while they’re in school should not impede their access to financial aid. This legislation would stop penalizing students who work, protect their financial aid awards, and encourage them to finish their degrees sooner – and with less debt.”
“In Wisconsin, I’ve heard firsthand from students and graduates struggling with the cost of higher education,” said Senator Baldwin. “Making college more affordable is one of the most important steps we can take toward building a stronger path to the middle class for all Americans. Students who work while in school should not be penalized with less access to financial aid. I’m proud to reintroduce legislation to help ensure that working students have the opportunity to earn an affordable higher education and succeed in the workforce.”
Nearly 44 million Americans have outstanding student loans. According to data from the Federal Reserve, student loan debt totals more than $1.6 trillion across the country. The rising debt load makes it more difficult for young professionals to purchase homes, automobiles, and other goods, creating a huge drag on the overall economy.
Currently, students who work while attending school often are eligible for less financial aid due to their work income. The Working Students Act will allow students that must work while in college to complete their degrees more quickly and with less debt. The legislation increases the amount working students can earn without that income counting against them in accessing need-based federal financial aid, including Pell Grants.
“Working students face unique challenges in the postsecondary education landscape,” said LeAnn Wilson, Executive Director of the Association for Career and Technical Education. “Ensuring that income protection allowance levels better account for students’ financial needs will go a long way in expanding access to postsecondary education for students all across the country. We are grateful to the bill’s sponsors for their hard work and commitment to this issue.”
“The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) is excited to support The Working Students Act. Skyrocketing tuition and fees as well as the rising cost of education-related expenses, such as housing and child care, have led more students to rely on work income to afford a postsecondary education. Additionally, nearly 75 percent of postsecondary students experience unmet need, the gap between the cost of attendance and all student resources that don’t need to be repaid,” said Olivia Golden, CLASP Executive Director. “The Working Students Act helps close that gap by implementing a 35 percent increase to the income protection allowances for federal financial aid, which would increase the amount of financial support available for working students. We applaud Senator Baldwin (D-WI) and Representative Bera (D-CA) for introducing this legislation because it will promote economic security and advance equity for working students and students with low incomes.”
This Working Students Act is cosponsored by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Tim Kaine (D-VA). More information about the legislation is available here.
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