Legislative Hero: Julia Brownley
Congresswoman Julia Brownley has sponsored and co-sponsored legislation for people fighting student debt. In this post we show a quick and encouraging interview with Congresswoman Brownley. Her responses to our questions remind us that, yes, there are people actively working to solve the daunting issue of student debt. Because of the work in which we have observed Congresswoman Brownley engage, we gladly recognize her as a LoanGifting Legislative Hero. Enjoy hearing how she is working to produce and sustain useful legislation!
What are your underlying hopes and goals for higher education funding? What are you doing now to work towards those goals?
Brownley: I believe that all Americans deserve access to a high-quality, affordable education and that no student should ever be priced out of a college education. It all starts with investing in higher education and federal student aid. I am a strong supporter of funding federal education programs like Title I, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Pell Grants, Head Start, and Impact Aid, which help all students realize their full potential. I also support efforts at the federal, state, and local level to expand access to free, public college and technical education, like the Ventura County Community College District Promise programs, including Oxnard College’s two-year, tuition-free program – as well as legislation to make higher education more affordable and accessible to all.
You work extensively in supporting veterans. Are there areas where this passion overlaps with or influences your support for helping with student loans?
Brownley: There is certainly a connection between supporting veterans and helping with student loans. Many veterans and their family members are students. For years, veterans and their families have been using educational benefits from the GI Bill, which is one of the most successful educational programs in our country’s history. The GI bill has helped millions of veterans graduate from college debt-free and achieve the American dream. Congress has improved the GI Bill benefits over many years to help ensure that these educational benefits continue to serve as the ladders to opportunity that they were originally intended to be.
Last year, a bill I supported, the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act, was signed into law. It enhances and expands education benefits for veterans and their families. This bill eliminated the 15-year time limit in which veterans had to use their post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, as well as expand[ing] educational assistance to survivors and dependents of veterans.
Which of the bills that you are sponsoring and co-sponsoring are you most driven to push forward?
Brownley: I introduced the Student Loan Repayment Assistance Act (H.R. 108), which would encourage employers to help college graduates repay their student loan debts. Specifically, the bill would offer employers a tax deduction of 10 percent for qualified student loan repayments up to $500 per month, or $6,000 annually. Not only would this bill benefit employees, but it would also help employers to attract and retain skilled, qualified employees. By engaging employers in efforts to make college more affordable, this bill will create a win-win not only for future graduates, but also for those who have already graduated with student loan debt.
I am also a proud cosponsor of legislation like the Student Loan Refinancing Act and the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act, which would keep interest rates for federal student loans low and provide immediate relief to Americans saddled with student loan debt.
As we learn to navigate the news and information surrounding student debt, let’s stay up-to-date on the workings of our Legislative Heroes. To not just vaguely know that higher-ups are thinking about the problem, but to hear exactly how they are helping. Hearing from legislators like Julia Brownley brings to our attention solutions we might not have thought of on our own, helps us make voting decisions, and encourages us. Stay tuned to LoanGifting’s blog to hear about other Legislative Heroes we will highlight.