LANSING — State Representative Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) is calling for immediate action on a plan to protect student borrowers and contain the escalating cost of a college or university education in the wake of a recent study on higher education funding, tuition and student debt from the Michigan League for Public Policy. Brinks, who sponsored legislation in the Democrats’ Student Borrower Protection Package introduced in April, is urging committee hearings on the legislation so that it can be passed into law and begin to protect students and their families.
“Families in Michigan have seen tuition rates spiral out of control at a time when the state has sharply reduced funding for higher education and student financial aid,” Brinks said. “Making steep cuts to higher education funding has consequences, such as tuition rates high enough to price our children out of a college education and debt loads that undermine our young people before they even get a chance to start their careers. Our state must make education and its students a priority once again.”
Between 2003 and 2015, Michigan’s funding for public colleges and universities fell by nearly 30 percent, when adjusted for inflation. At the same time, the state decreased student financial aid by 55 percent. These funding decreases shifted the cost of education onto colleges, universities and students, leading to rapidly increasing tuition and more student loans.
The legislation Brinks supports would:
- Create a Student Loan Ombudsman and Student Loan Bill of Rights, sponsored by Sen. Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor) and Rep. Henry Yanez (D-Sterling Heights).
- Add a student loan servicer licensing requirement, sponsored by Sen. Coleman A. Young II (D-Detroit) and Rep. Brinks.
- Reinstate the MHEAA, sponsored by Sen. David Knezek (D-Dearborn Heights) and Rep. Charles Brunner (D-Bay City), which was dissolved in 2006.
“We can’t wait for even more of our young people to be discouraged from getting the education they need to start a career, or for our graduates and families to be saddled with even more student loan debt,” Rep. Brinks said. “That’s why I’m urging our leaders in the Legislature to take immediate action to address the problems of rising tuition and increasing student debt loads. Michigan used to be seen as a leader in education, from pre-kindergarten through higher education. It’s time for us to reclaim that title once again.”