Representative Mia Ackerman has announced plans for new legislation that would give students who are being crushed by student debt a two-year reprieve on repayment, according to The Valley Breeze.

Ackerman, who represents the towns of Lincoln and Cumberland, explained that the “Get on Your Feet” program is specifically designed to help middle-income students afford the cost of getting a degree. Student loan debt is a growing concern for students across the country, with many either skipping college to avoid accumulating debt or not being able to repay their loans upon graduation.

Residents who graduate from state colleges and universities and remain in Rhode Island after earning their degrees will not have to make a payment on their student loans for the first two years after graduation. Rhode Island will be responsible for paying the difference between the “Pay as You Earn” income-based program and the student’s remaining balance.

Students would apply through the Rhode Island Student Loan Authority and need to meet certain eligibility requirements in order to qualify for the program, including attending a specific Rhode Island school (the University of Rhode Island, the Community College of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College, or the New England Institute of Technology), residing in the state during school and for at least two years after graduation, earning less than $50,000 for the two years while the plan is in effect, and not taking a deferment on the loan.

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Ackerman pointed out that helping students repay their loans is crucial, not only for their own financial stability, but also to help stimulate the local and state economy. Students with a great deal of debt are unlikely to start a business, purchase a home, or start a family. It also means that college grads aren’t able to follow their passions and must often take on jobs simply to pay their student loan debt. The bill, which is being introduced to the House Finance Committee soon, will hopefully encourage Rhode Island students to earn a degree in-state and then stay afterwards.

Image Copyright Susan Ruggles.

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