State elected officials in New York are backing efforts to reduce and address student debt by expanding access to tuition assistance and supporting relief programs.

At the same time, New York's attorney general, Letitia James, is supporting a national effort for student debt cancellation.

The proposals, including bills approved Wednesday in the state Senate, come after New York lawmakers and Gov. Kathy Hochul agreed to more than $100 million in new funding for the State University of New York and the City University of New York to eliminate gaps in tuition assistance coverage.

In the state Senate, lawmakers took up bills that are meant to address student debt, including increasing the income eligibility for the tuition assistance program from $80,000 to $110,000.

Lawmakers in the chamber also approved measures to require the Higher Education Services Corp. to make a determination of the financial eligibility of a student for financial aid within two months.

And lawmakers want lenders to be required to provide information to the cosigners with applicants for a loan about their rights. The package of bills also include providing student borrowers with more information about their loan and repayment schedule as well as new protections for private education loans.

“The importance of higher education for both the personal mobility of our students, and the economic health of our state could not be clearer. We as lawmakers have a responsibility to assist students in making informed decisions on their borrowing, and provide assistance to ensure that the cost of higher education is accessible to all who wish to pursue it,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said. “Student debt is a crippling burden on many New Yorkers already struggling to pay their bills during a period of inflation. While we wait for student debt relief from Washington, these bills make substantial steps to provide financial aid assistance and set our students up for success now and in the future.” 

On the federal level, New York Attorney General Letitia James in a letter to President Joe Biden urged him to take up a full cancellation of student loan debt in the country.

At the moment, there is an esimtated $1.7 trillion owed by borrowers to the federal government. The letter comes as the Biden administration is weighing the scope of a debt cancellation and tying it to income.

James' letter was signed on by attorneys general in Hawaii, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Puerto Rico and Washington.

“While I commend President Biden for giving serious consideration to forgiving $10,000 per borrower, we must take bolder, more decisive action to end this crisis and provide Americans with the tools they need to thrive,” she said. “Student debt keeps millions of struggling borrowers from reaching financial stability and leads to a cycle of financial burdens that follow them throughout their lives. I join my colleagues in urging President Biden to lead one of the most impactful racial and economic justice initiatives in history by canceling this debt, in its entirety, for all.”