Duckworth backs proposal to reduce college costs

U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth and congressional leaders are pushing a measure to help make college costs more affordable, according to a news release.

The In the Red Act proposal calls for increasing Pell Grants, investing in community colleges and enabling more people to refinance student debt at lower interest rates. Duckworth introduced it in the House on Thursday.

"I put myself through college with student loans, Pell Grants, and a heck of a lot of waitressing," said Duckworth, a Hoffman Estates resident who represents the 8th Congressional District. "And I'm still paying off my student loans today, so I know how tough paying for school can be."

Lack of affordable education threatens the nation's economic growth and global competitiveness, she added.

A provision in the proposal would give 9.2 million students an additional $1,300 in grant funding to pay for college costs.

The legislation, introduced in the Senate by Tammy Baldwin, a Wisconsin Democrat, would be paid for by closing tax loopholes that benefit special interests, per the release. Among them is preventing corporations from unlimited tax write-offs for performance-based executive pay, ensuring millionaires pay their fair share, and preventing American companies from evading U.S. taxes.

Students also would be able to refinance outstanding debt at lower interest rates offered to new borrowers in the student loan program in the 2013-14 school year.

Duckworth's proposal also calls for creating a new federal-state partnership to make two-year community colleges tuition-free.

The measure is co-sponsored by House Education and the Workforce Committee ranking member Bobby Scott of Virginia, Subcommittee on Higher Education ranking member Rubén Hinojosa of Texas, and U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney of Connecticut.

Duckworth won the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate and will face Republican incumbent Mark Kirk in the November general election.

"Sen. Kirk shares the concerns of parents and students in making college more affordable, which is why he has supported expanding grants for students and authored legislation that would create innovative tax-free savings accounts," said Kevin Artl, Kirk's campaign manager in response to Duckworth's proposal.

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