Heartland lawmakers discuss debt-free college system

Free College tuituion

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - Free college sounds pretty good, doesn't it? It could happen; and many of us know just how high of a bill that can be.

For many college students, the trade-off for getting a degree is a pile of student-loan debt.

The average student load debt in the state of Missouri is $24,957.

In Illinois its $28,543

In Kentucky, it's the lowest at $24,693.

Now, imagine if you could graduate from a four year University debt free. It's what some lawmakers are working towards for future students.

Ten Democratic lawmakers from across the country, including lawmakers in Illinois and Missouri, are working to put a plan together to provide a debt-free college system.

"You're incurring a substantial amounts of debt before you even graduate from college," said college Junior Cheri Foster.

It's no secret, college isn't cheap.

For many students walking around Southeast Missouri State University's campus on Tuesday, they'll graduate more than $20,000 in the red.

"I have around $10,000 in debt so far and I have two years left so," said college sophomore Chris Smith.

Some Lawmakers have a plan to ease the burden.

"It is really a staggering figure," said Illinois Representative Will Guzzardi.

Representative Guzzardi said his plan includes raising taxes on people with higher incomes.

"I think that by making a fair tax system by asking the folks at the top to do their fair share that will enable us to fund programs like this that our families desperately need," said Representative Guzzardi.

Other ideas tossed around in a phone conference on Monday include funneling more federal aid to states, giving more financial help to students and finding ways to make college more affordable.

"I think that's what really matters to people, they want to go to college they just can't," said Smith

Many students agreed, the biggest stress surrounding higher education is the cost and with more than 40 million Americans feeling the same weight trying to pay off their own debt. It's an idea that will impact many more.

"It would just be this weight off my shoulders that I wouldn't have to deal with," said Smith.

The ideas don't just include raising taxes.

Missouri Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal said her idea includes providing more opportunities for high school students to get dual credits paid for by the school district.

Lawmakers will present their resolutions when the legislator reconvenes in January.

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