Hoffman bill would allow college students to repay tuition interest-free

News-DemocratMarch 3, 2014 

State Rep. Jay Hoffman.

DERIK HOLTMANN — dholtmann@bnd.com

Legislation sponsored by Rep. Jay Hoffman could lead to Illinois giving interest-free loans to students seeking a college education.

House Bill 5323, if passed, would direct the Illinois Student Assistance Commission to study a pay-it-forward type of loan program, under which students could attend community colleges or state universities tuition-free.

Students would have to sign a contract to repay the costs of their education to the state from a portion of their adjusted gross income following graduation.

"With the recent explosion of student debt, it is clear we need a new approach to how students pay for college," said Hoffman, D-Swansea.

The legislation would instruct the Illinois Student Assistance Commission to study the financial feasibility of such a program and to study similar programs in other states.

"Studying the strengths and weaknesses of the various pilot programs underway throughout the country is the best first step to changing the state's approach for the better," Hoffman said.

The bill passed unanimously, 13-0, last week in the House Higher Education Committee, and now goes to the House floor.

The measure is co-sponsored by Rep. Jack Franks, D-Woodstock.

"A well-educated workforce, free of the burden of interest-bearing debt, would be a boon to our economy," Franks said.

"The costs of higher education have risen far faster than wages in recent years. This has put many young people into a 'catch-22'-type situation, where they either assume a large amount of debt to attend a university or their future earning potential is inhibited due to their lack of a college degree. I believe this is an unacceptable trade-off and that new ideas are clearly called for."

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