Taken from Michigan State Senator, Carl Levin’s floor statement on June 4, 2014.
Mr. President, in the fall of last year, Adrian College in Adrian, Michigan, made an announcement that received national attention. Adrian, one of the finest private liberal arts colleges in America, made a promise to prospective students: Beginning this fall, incoming students who graduate from Adrian carrying student loan debt and are unable to find a job that pays above a set income will be eligible for support from the college to pay part or all of that student’s loan payments. The program, known as AdrianPlus, will ensure that students who aren’t able to find good-paying jobs after graduation will still be able to begin their work careers without facing crushing debt payments all alone.
This announcement was notable for two reasons. The first is that it represents a visionary choice on the part of President Jeffrey Docking and the rest of Adrian’s leadership. I am grateful to them for showing the kind of leadership that makes Adrian a proud example of my state’s outstanding higher education institutions. Adrian has long been recognized not just for the quality of its instruction, but for its efforts to make that education accessible and affordable, and this is just the latest example of the school’s forward thinking.
The second reason this announcement was so notable is that it was so necessary.
As President Docking said in announcing the program, “Student debt load continues to be a national concern.” That is surely the case. According to the Project on Student Debt, nearly two thirds of graduates from Michigan colleges and universities leave school with student debt. They owe an average of more than $28,000. The rising tide of student loan debt threatens to overwhelm the financial futures of these graduates before they can even get their working lives started. And the looming prospect of heavy loan debt threatens to keep many young people from even reaching a college campus.
Adrian College’s program won’t completely erase this problem, but it is a good start. Likewise, no single piece of legislation will make college more affordable, increase access to education for middle-class families, or eliminate the mountain of debt many students carry. But it is time for us to start taking some steps in the right direction. A number of Senators have introduced or are working on student loan legislation, including legislation allowing students to refinance their debt at lower interest rates. I believe the Senate should take up, debate and pass legislation to lighten the all-too-formidable load. And we should explore other ways to ensure that college education is indeed affordable to all.
Study after study shows that a college education makes an enormous difference in allowing Americans to pursue rewarding careers. But if we can’t ensure that all Americans have access to higher education, we shut off access to the American dream. We cannot let the disturbing trends in student debt and college costs continue unabated, and I hope that, inspired by the Adrian College example, we will act to halt and reverse those trends.
See more at by visiting Senator Levin’s page.