Congressman Walker Introduces Legislation to Protect Jobs for Americans Struggling with Student Debt

WASHINGTON, D.C.- U.S. Representative Mark Walker (R-N.C.) today co-introduced a bipartisan, bicameral bill by U.S. Representative Donna E. Shalala (D-Fla.) that protects occupational licensees from losing their license because of federal student loan debt.

The Protecting JOBs Act prevents states from suspending, revoking or denying state professional, teaching, or driver’s licenses solely for late payments of federal student loans.

“Stripping young adults of the dignity of work because of a student loan burden is counter to our American ideals and the ladder of upward mobility,” Walker said. “Instead of forcing our future leaders into a debt trap, we should be giving them every opportunity to succeed. The government should not be in the position to tell someone they don’t have the right to contribute to our communities and improve their life.”

“Many people take out student loans with the hope and expectation that higher education will provide an avenue to better a life,” said Rep. Shalala. “It is counter-productive and counter-intuitive to take away the livelihood that folks rely on to pay back their student loans. This bill is a common-sense solution, and I’m proud to introduce it with bipartisan support.”

The Senate companion bill was introduced by U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

In the early 1990s, the U.S. Department of Education encouraged states to adopt laws that allowed state licensing boards to revoke occupational licenses for anyone that defaulted on their federal student loans.

The Protecting JOBs Act:
Prevents states from denying, suspending, or revoking state issued:

  • driver’s licenses;
  • teaching licenses;
  • professional licenses; or
  • a similar form of licensing to lawful employment in a certain field.

Gives states two years to comply.
 Provides borrowers with legal recourse for non-compliance, by allowing them to file for prospective injunctive relief if a state violates the terms of the act.

“We shouldn’t punish people struggling to pay back their student loans by taking away their drivers’ or professional licenses, preventing them from going to work and making a living,” said Senator Warren. “Our bipartisan bill removes these senseless roadblocks so that borrowers can build better financial futures.”

“It is wrong to threaten a borrower’s livelihood by rescinding a professional license from those who are struggling to repay student loans, and it deprives hardworking Americans of dignified work,” Senator Rubio said. “Our bill fixes this ‘catch-22’ and ensures that borrowers are able to continue working to pay off their loans, instead of being caught in a modern-day debtors prison.”

The Protecting JOBs Act is supported by AccessLex, American Federation of Teachers, American Nurses Association, American Optometric Association, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Center for Responsible Lending, Consumer Reports, Federation of American Hospitals, Generation Progress, Heritage Action, Higher Education Loan Coalition, The Institute for College Access & Success, Institute for Justice, National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA), National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low-income clients), National Council of State Boards of Nursing, National Education Association, National Employment Law Project, Opportunity Solutions Project, Pacific Legal Foundation, Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts, R Street, Student Debt Crisis, Thurgood Marshall College Fund, UnidosUS, United Negro College Fund, and Young Invincibles.

You can read the full text of the legislation here.