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A Message From Senator Kahele – Student Loan Debt

Senator Kahele and some kid!

Aloha, I hope this week’s update finds you well. As Chair of the Senate Committee on Higher Education, I have made it my mission to address the ever increasing costs associated with getting a University of Hawai’i System (UH System) degree.

To address this issue, my team and I crafted a Hawai’i Promise Program bill to create a “last-dollar” scholarship program for all UH System students who fell just short of the funds they would need to get a degree. We also introduced a Tuition Moratorium bill to preclude the UH System from increasing student tuition for an unspecified period, during which a detailed review of the UH System’s expenditures and revenue could take place.

In July 2015, President Barack Obama recognized the burden of the cost of higher education and issued Dear Colleague Letter GEN 15-14 to forbid loan guaranty agencies from charging fees for up to sixteen percent of the principal and accrued interest owed on Federal Family Education Program Loans (FFEPL), if the borrower entered the government’s loan rehabilitation program within sixty days of default. However, on March 16, 2017, President Donald Trump issued Dear Colleague Letter GEN 17-02 meant to revoke the federal guidance issued by President Obama.

By this action, President Trump is forcibly removing a safety net for FFEPL borrowers at the worst possible time. The total national student loan debt has grown to $1.3 trillion with a corresponding increase in the national average of debt per borrower at $37,172. Of the 44.2 million borrowers across the nation, 11.2% or just under 5 million borrowers are in default.

In response to President Trump’s action, my team and I put together SCR139 SD1, which urges the reinstatement of GEN 15-14 and requests legislative support or administrative action to allow borrowers in default a chance to rehabilitate their loans and successfully repay student debt without being charged steep collection fees by guaranty agencies. I hope you will join me in supporting this resolution. 

As the session continues, we will remain vigilant and committed to make higher education more affordable. We know education is the key to better paying jobs, job security, and economic stability for our families. That’s why it is critical that we make higher education 100% accessible to people of all socio-economic backgrounds.

Me ka ha’aha’a,
Kaiali’i Kahele

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