Congressman John Larson Hosts College Affordability Forum at Trinity

Student Debt among Top Priorities for Larson, Connecticut State Legislators

Hartford, CT, April 24, 2015 – At $1.3 trillion, national student loan debt now exceeds even all combined consumer credit card debt in the United States. It is an emerging policy challenge that members of Congress are beginning to recognize. Trinity’s representative in Congress, John B. Larson (D-East Hartford), recently held a forum on campus for students to discuss their experiences and ideas for dealing with the country’s college affordability crisis.

Congressman John Larson discusses college affordability during a forum on Trinity's campus.
 The forum was Larson’s fifth visit to college campuses to discuss the issue. In addition to updating the students on what’s happening in Washington, Larson is asking to hear the stories of students and their families as well as their ideas for what to do about the issue.

“Trinity is better than most , but nationwide the statistics are frightening,” he said, recalling the stories of those whose debt led graduates to ask whether they could afford to buy a car, own a home, or start a family. “These questions have never troubled any generation in our country’s history before.”

Though the problem seems intractable to some, Larson mentioned two proposals, from Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and Connecticut Representative Joe Courtney (D-Vernon). Each has proposed legislation to make it possible to refinance student loans. Larson himself plans to propose the Student Loan Debt Relief Act, which aims to assist Americans with lowering the interest rates on their student loans.

“Fundamentally, the fact that we were able to bail out Wall Street but can’t bail out students is wrong,” he said.

State Representatives Matthew Lesser (D-Middletown) and Jason Rojas (D-East Hartford), who also serves as Trinity’s director of community relations and chief of staff to President Joanne Berger-Sweeney, were also in attendance to update students on steps taken at the state level. Lesser, the chair of the Connecticut General Assembly’s Banks Committee, discussed the Student Loan Bill of Rights, which recently unanimously passed the House of Representatives.

To achieve results at the federal level, Larson called on students and those who care about the issue to get involved and make their voices heard.

“This issue won’t be solved overnight,” he said, “but we can organize and tell our stories. That’s how a grassroots democratic movement works. Look at Vietnam and the Civil Rights Movement. These became issues when campuses made them so.”