Sherrod Brown pushes for big changes to student finance law

A staple of Ohio politics since the mid-70s, Sen. Sherrod Brown has made a career out of effective public service. 

On Tuesday, April 21, The Cleveland Stater spoke with the senator about that decades-long resume, including his efforts to safely increase access to higher education, as well as Congress’ battle over student loan debt. 

Born and raised in Mansfield, Ohio, the 62-year-old democrat and senior senator has held his current position since 2007, after defeating incumbent Mike DeWine during Ohio’s 2006 senatorial run. In the 2012 senatorial race, he would successfully defend his seat against Republican opponent Josh Mandel in what could easily be described as the David and Goliath of senatorial races.

After a 2010 Supreme Court ruling declared corporations could make political expenditures under the First Amendment, enormous amounts of special interest money flooded into Ohio – a state that is often considered pivotal to putting candidates in the Oval Office. Brown successfully fended off one of the most heated and negative attack campaigns in recent history, winning the election with 50.7 percent of the vote to Mandel’s 44.7 percent. 

Prior to his federal role, Brown was a member of the United States House of Representatives, acted as Ohio’s Secretary of State and held a seat in the Ohio House of Representatives. 

Despite receiving his undergraduate degree from Yale University, followed by a Master of Public Administration and Master of Arts in education from Ohio State University, Brown has remained faithful to the blue-collar community. That loyalty has won him a title he proudly wears: champion of the middle-class. In his more than 30 years as a public servant, the senator has earned himself contested district seats and perfect scores from the Human Rights Campaign for his stance on LGBT issues. 

He has even taken the lead in convening the Ohio College Presidents Conference, an annual event where prominent members of the education community discuss ways of gathering federal support to promote higher education and job training in the state. His experience, coupled with his dedication, has paved the way to a well-respected political career focused on aligning public interest and national support with the needs of America’s families and workers. 

Having always been a strong proponent of public access and transparency, Brown’s focus on making education more accessible through public universities and community colleges has taken him in several different directions. This includes speaking out against the at times harmful relationship between universities and banking institutions like Higher One, who provide federal aid management and disbursement systems to students in the form of credit and debit cards. 

The senator took a hardline stance against the partnerships back in 2012, arguing that many of the card companies’ programs contained hidden fees that cut into both students’ and the government’s limited financial aid dollars. 

“They disadvantage students because they’ve been out on their own for a shorter period of time,” Brown said. “Many do, but some students don’t have the financial sophistication of dealing with complex bank language. I mean, few people can really understand what banks say when you sign up for credit cards. It’s not always very well disclosed. Students are more vulnerable because they are underage and because they haven’t been dealing with banks as much.”

The full story was published in The Cleveland Stater on May 4, 2015.