Patty Judge seeks help for student loan debt

Dem urges closing tax 'loopholes,' more Pell grants

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ANKENY — Patty Judge wants the federal government to help college graduates manage their student loan debt and wants the country’s top moneymakers to help pay for it.

Judge, the Democratic candidate in Iowa’s U.S. Senate race, held a roundtable discussion on student loan debt and other higher education issues Thursday on the Des Moines Area Community College’s FFA Enrichment Center.

Judge heard from seven students and one retired professor from Iowa colleges and universities and also talked about her plans for postsecondary education.

Judge is running against Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley.

Judge said she supports allowing students to refinance the interest rates on and extend their student loans, expanding access to federal Pell grants, and making two years of community college as close to tuition-free as possible.

To support these programs or expansions, Judge proposed closing income tax “loopholes” on the top 1 to 2 percent of workers and dedicate some of that new revenue to education.

“It’s a matter of priorities for us,” Judge told reporters after the event. “We’ve been starving the whole education system. We need to start being willing to put our resources into that to make certain we have top-notch, world-class education for students in the United States.”

The students and graduates who attended the roundtable talked about the burden of their student loan debt.

Matt Bopes, who graduated from the University of Iowa three years ago and is now working in a law firm, said his student loan payment is roughly the same as his rent.

Allison Ver Schuer, who went to DMACC, Central College and then to law school, described her student loan as “basically a mortgage around your neck.”

Iowa has the eighth-highest average student debt in the nation, nearly $28,000, according to the Institute for College Access and Success.

“We want to be sure as you enter the workforce that you have a fighting chance,” Judge told the students and graduates. “We want to keep you in Iowa. We have to do everything we can to keep you here.”

Grassley’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment, but his Senate website says Grassley supports tax incentives to make higher education more accessible and affordable and supports simplifying the loan application process.

Judge said she thinks Iowa lawmakers and education leaders are doing what they can to limit tuition increases, but that the cost of education will continue to rise because of increasing costs for housing and other expenses.

Judge also said she thinks high schools and colleges can do a better job informing students about the cost of higher education and loans.

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