Keep Our Graduates Working Act draws support

A view of the Florida State Capitol. Photo by Deanna McClary

Senate Bill 356, sponsored by Travis Hutson, is also known as the Keep Our Graduates Working Act.

It would prohibits a state authority from suspending or revoking a person’s professional license, certificate, registration, or permit on the basis of a delinquency or default in the payment of his or her student loan.

Rep. Ramon Alexander, a Democrat from Tallahassee and a FAMU graduate, said he fully supports the Keep our Graduates Working Act.

“It’s a phenomenal piece of legislation when you look at the amount of debt young people carry out to make a better quality of life for their families,” he said. “This act will give a sense of compassion sensibility as we move forward into the next generation of leaders that are looking to seek out opportunities to make a better life for their families.”

Alexander is confident that this act will have a positive impact on graduates by allowing them to utilize the dollars that they’re bringing into their families and give graduates a chance to develop a plan to pay the debt off.

According to the Florida Senate, the purpose of this act is to ensure that Floridians who graduate from an accredited college or university can maintain their occupational licenses and remain in the workforce while they attempt to pay off their student loan debt.

Barber stylist Johann Rutherford believes licensed professionals should be able to work, but he understands why laws are put in place to make sure professionals are held accountable.

“My thoughts are a little mixed because I believe if you have a difficult time paying what they ask you to pay it should be something along the line that allows you to work things out so your license will not be revoked, but in the same token it should be enforced because you’re taking out that loan so you should be held accountable,” Rutherford said.

Students who qualify will have graduated from an accredited college or university and this bill would allow them to avoid falling into poverty.

Senator Bobby Powell believes the Keep Our Graduates Working Act is a sound first step.

“It’s a step in the right direction as it will have a positive impact on the community, senior citizens and those who need assistance with health care. There’s nearly 900 people that could be affected actively, but this bill will keep them into play, which is the best part of it all,” Powell said.

If the Keep Our Graduates Working Act is passed, it will go into effect on July 1.