COLUMBIA — State Rep. Kip Kendrick, D-Columbia, is on a mission to shatter student debt.
Kendrick spoke Monday morning to a crowd at the MU Student Center about HB 2432, also called the “Student Debt Relief Act." The bill calls for additional measures to help college graduates repay loans.
“Rather than a debt crisis, we have a repayment crisis,” said Kendrick, a first-term representative. “This bill is a safe bet for Missouri.”
In 2012, 63 percent of Missouri students graduated with an average debt load of about $23,000, according to previous Missourian reporting.
The bill, which Kendrick filed Thursday, would grant power to the Department of Higher Education to refinance student loans through consolidation, reducing interest rates, extending repayment periods and creating a cap for monthly payments in proportion to each graduate’s level of discretionary income.
“The current repayment structure puts an unnecessary burden on many Missouri residents,” Kendrick said in a statement released Thursday. “It forces students to pay the bulk of the debt when earnings are lowest and job security is least.”
Co-hosts of the news conference included student groups such as the Associated Students of the University of Missouri, the Graduate Professional Council, the Missouri Student Association and Tigers Advancing Political Participation.
About 40 people stood around the area where Kendrick held the conference, which lasted less than 30 minutes.
The event kicked off with various student speakers, some sharing their personal experience with debt.
“Twenty thousand dollars in debt and I feel lucky,” said Steven Chaffin, legislative director for the Associated Students of the University of Missouri.
Kendrick said student debt affects the entire Missouri economy because it prompts an overall decrease in spending, which can be harmful to state businesses.
At the conference, Kendrick said he intended to file a companion bill to the Student Relief Act. The other bill would establish “loan navigators," or people who would assist students and graduates with the process.
Christopher Dade, vice president for education for Tigers Advancing Political Participation, also chimed in on the issue.
“This is an issue that affects a lot of students, not only on this campus but others as well,” said Dade, an undergraduate student at MU.
Kendrick, who is pursuing a master's degree in higher education administration at MU while representing Columbia in the House, closed the conference by invoking the past.
“The great Missouri President Harry Truman once said, ‘The buck stops here,’” Kendrick said. “It does with me.”
Supervising editor is Daniela Sirtori-Cortina.