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SDPB Radio Coverage of the South Dakota Legislature. See all coverage and find links to audio and video streams live from the Capitol at www.sdpb.org/statehouse

Hawks To Introduce Resolution On College Debt

One South Dakota lawmaker says she’s crafting a resolution about debt-free college. Democratic State Representative Paula Hawks says she wants to start a conversation with fellow lawmakers about the cost of higher education.

The phrase “debt-free college” is appearing in national discussions. State Representative Paula Hawks says she wants to bring the dialogue to South Dakota.

“Debt-free college does not mean a free pass for everybody. It does not mean that everybody goes to college for free. What it means is that we make it more accessible for everybody, regardless of where they come from or who they are. We give them an opportunity,” Hawks says.

She says people who graduate with associate’s degrees and bachelor’s degrees shoulder too much debt to find meaningful careers, start businesses or even move out of their parents’ homes.

Hawks says the education debt discussion affects even people who aren’t making student loan payments. She says having graduates encumbered with significant debt hurts South Dakota’s economy.

“Those kids who are choosing not to go to college because they can’t handle the debt or because they can’t secure the loans are stymied in their approach to economic development for themselves, and that slows down the process of economic development for everybody,” Hawks says. “And those kids who are finishing college and are saddled with that debt are not contributing to economic growth in South Dakota, because they can’t buy houses, they can’t buy cars, they can’t pursue their dreams and their ideals and what they hoped for having gone through college and being promised a great job with a great pay.”

Hawks says she supports a national movement that involves progressive thinking to address higher education and student debt. She says in South Dakota that begins with a legislative resolution she plans to file ahead of January’s session start.

The democratic state lawmaker is also campaigning for United States Congress. Hawks faces incumbent Congresswoman Kristi Noem in November 20-16’s statewide election.