— Members Urged to Contact Representatives to Cosponsor H.R. 1043 and S.460 —
Statement by Ralph Albert Thomas, CPA (DC), CGMA, CEO and Executive Director, NJCPA
Student loan debt has climbed to the most worrisome level in history. At about $1.5 trillion in Q2 2019 as reported by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, student loan debt represents a huge burden for young professionals as well as their parents/guardians. It’s not only millennials that shoulder such high debt levels; their parents — Baby Boomers and Gen Xers — face devastatingly high debt levels from helping their children pay for college. The New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants (NJCPA) supports the expansion of employer-provided student loan repayment benefits to help reduce the levels of outstanding debt for all generations in the workforce.
Rep. Scott H. Peters (D-CA) and Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) introduced legislation (H.R. 1043 and S.460) earlier this year that would make employer contributions to employees’ student loan payments tax free, similar to other employer-provided education assistance such as tuition reimbursement. If enacted, the “Employer Participation in Repayment Act of 2019” would allow employers to provide student loan repayment up to $5,250 per year per employee. The Act is supported by 164 cosponsors in the House, including three New Jersey representatives — Frank Pallone (D-NJ-6), Andy Kim (D-NJ-3) and Tom Malinowski (D-NJ-7) — and 42 cosponsors in the Senate.
At the NJCPA, we believe the legislation is necessary to relieve some of the burdens faced by today’s workforce, particularly the younger generation. New Jersey’s average student loan debt ranks at the sixth highest in the nation (LendEDU). According to the Federal Reserve, the percentage of student loan balances transitioning into 90 days or more delinquent rose to nearly 10 percent in Q2 2019. And though millennials have high student loan debt, a 2018 Experian report noted that Gen X, followed by the Boomer generation, had even higher average student loan balances of more than $39,500 and $34,700, respectively, compared with $34,500 for millennials.
The NJCPA supports this legislation to help CPAs and aspiring CPAs who may be facing a mountain of debt — either for themselves or for their children. We have created a Student Loan Debt Task Force to help address this problem. A recent survey of our members showed that this issue has reached “crisis” levels, and more than 75 percent of the 623 survey respondents considered student loan debt in New Jersey to be a “major problem.”
We ask our members and their staff to please take the time to contact their representatives to cosponsor H.R. 1043 and S.460 and to reiterate the benefit that this legislation would provide to all. If the House bill collects 290 or more cosponsors, it could go to the House floor for consideration before year-end.