April 10, 2017

ICYMI: Senator Hassan OP-ED: “Reigniting Opportunity for Young Innovators”

WASHINGTON – Today, Senator Maggie Hassan penned an op-ed in the Union Leader, highlighting her first bill, the Reigniting Opportunity for Innovators (ROI) Act, which would help provide the student loan debt relief necessary for entrepreneurs to start up and grow innovative small businesses in New Hampshire and across the nation.

The ROI Act will help boost New Hampshire’s economy by allowing founders and full-time employees of small business start-ups certified by Small Business Development Centers to have their federal student loan payments and interest accrual deferred for up to three years while launching a start-up. To provide start-ups with additional incentive to help revitalize struggling communities, the ROI Act would allow founders and employees of start-ups in economically distressed areas who make twenty four monthly payments to be eligible for cancellation of up to $20,000 in student loans.

Click here to read the full op-ed in the Union Leader or see below:

Reigniting opportunity for young innovators

By Senator Maggie Hassan

Most of us have seen personally how heavily the burden of student loan debt weighs on students and families across New Hampshire. Less visible, but no less important, is how student loan debt is weighing down our economy — stifling innovation and job creation.

Student loan debt is preventing the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators from opening their own businesses. A New York Times report highlighted that the percentage of new entrepreneurs between 20-34 years old fell to 25 percent in 2014, down from almost 35 percent in 1996. And Gallup found that 19 percent of graduates with student loan debt say they have delayed starting a business because of it.

It is time to once again unleash the entrepreneurial potential of our young people into creating the jobs of the future. That is why last week I introduced the Reigniting Opportunity for Innovators (ROI) Act, the first bill I am writing as a United States senator, which would help provide the relief necessary for young entrepreneurs to start up and grow innovative small businesses.

The ROI Act will allow eligible founders and full-time employees of certified small business to defer their federal student loan payments and interest accrual for up to three years while launching a start-up. This will help give graduates the financial stability they need to take the risk of starting a business that can create good-paying jobs.

Additionally, this legislation provides an additional incentive for start-up companies to move off the beaten path to help revitalize struggling communities. If the start-up is located in an economically distressed area, founders and employees will be eligible for cancellation of up to $20,000 in student loans.

The ROI Act is an important step that we can take now to help young entrepreneurs and lay the foundation for a new generation of economic growth.

New businesses are historically the top job creators in our country, and small businesses are the driving force of New Hampshire’s economy. But to get the education they need to compete for jobs in the 21st century economy, students are taking on more debt than ever before. In 2015, college graduates left school with an average of $30,000 of student loan debt, and New Hampshire students had the highest-average student debt in the country.

At a roundtable discussion at Keene State College, I heard from students about the challenges posed by their student loan debt. One young woman told me that she hoped to start her own business, but that she would likely have to put off that goal for another 10 years because of her student loan debt.

Any entrepreneur will tell you that getting a small business off the ground is expensive. These costs, mixed with student loan debt, make it even more daunting for young entrepreneurs to consider taking the leap of starting a new business. Student debt decreases the cash flow of potential entrepreneurs, it hurts their ability to build equity, and it can negatively affect credit scores and their ability to secure financing.

With the deck too often stacked against them, we need to be doing everything we can to support young entrepreneurs looking to start the innovative businesses that will drive job-creation and move our economy forward.

The ROI Act would work to drive our 21st century economy, but we know that we have more work to do to bring down the costs of higher education, and ensure that New Hampshire students, families, and innovative businesses have the support they need. In addition to working to pass this common-sense legislation, I will continue to focus on expanding Pell Grants, lowering interest rates for student loans and allowing students to refinance, and increasing apprenticeship and job training opportunities.

The ROI Act is an important step that we can take now to help young entrepreneurs and lay the foundation for a new generation of economic growth, and I look forward to working with members of both parties to pass this common-sense bill.

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