WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Oct. 26, Congressman Jason Smith authored and introduced a bill that will help working students afford college tuition. Smith has met with students in every county of Missouri’s sprawling 8th Congressional District, and heard the need for legislation like the Upward Mobility Enhancement Act firsthand.
The Upward Mobility Enhancement Act allows employers to offer tax-free education assistance of up to $11,500 a year to their employees. This gives students the opportunity to enter the workforce and earn money while getting portions of their tuition and other education related expenses covered by their employer.
“I am one of the only Members of Congress who is still paying back my student loans, so I know what a burden this can be,” said Congressman Smith. “Student loan repayment programs are great, but people who are working while pursuing their education need help right now.”
Smith worked with his colleague, Rep. Rodney Davis, on the legislation. Davis is from Illinois and recently visited several agricultural operations in southeast Missouri with Congressman Smith.
“Hard-working Americans at companies like Starbucks, McDonald’s, and others across this country have success stories about furthering their education without taking on a large amount of student debt,” said Davis. “These companies are providing their employees with opportunities to grow, succeed, and achieve their dream. If we want to help people succeed and reduce the need for student debt, which is now the second largest form of consumer debt, we should ensure this benefit is adequate to helping people further their education.”
Fifty-seven percent of graduates in Missouri incur debt while earning their degree. The average debt for an individual graduate is $27,532. Smith has a record of supporting Missouri students. In 2015, Smith authored and passed legislation to give tax cuts to college students participating in work-learning-service programs like College of the Ozarks in southern Missouri.
“Many students can’t afford to go to school without working at the same time,” said Congressman Smith. “In addition to creating tax cuts for hardworking Missourians, we are creating legislation like the Upward Mobility Enhancement Act which will allow more people to keep money in their pocket and stay out of debt while pursuing their education.”
Smith’s legislation has bipartisan support in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Original supporters of the legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives include Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL), Rep. Susan DelBene (D-WA), Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) and Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL).