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Daines seeks to block students arrested during campus protests from federal debt relief

by KATE HESTON
Daily Inter Lake | May 8, 2024 12:00 AM

U.S. Sen. Steve Daines is looking to bar students convicted of criminal offenses in connection with the ongoing wave of campus protests from receiving future student loan relief.

While the measure comes in the wake of demonstrations sparked by the Israel-Hamas war, the legislation that Daines is cosponsoring would affect any student convicted of a state or federal offense during a campus protest. The recent protests have enabled “anti-Jew, pro-terror groups to wreak havoc on their campuses and harm Jewish students with violent, anti-semitic threats,” said Daines, a Republican, in a statement.

The legislation, introduced by U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., is known as the No Bailouts for Campus Criminals Act. Cotton, who advocated for using the military to quell nationwide demonstrations following George Floyd’s death in 2020, has called on President Joe Biden to use the National Guard to put down the campus protests.

The act states that individuals convicted during a protest at a university will be ineligible to have any covered loan, or a portion of the loan forgiven, canceled, waived or modified under the Higher Education Act of 1965. 

The recent demonstrations have resulted in more than 2,100 arrests, according to the Associated Press. As of May 2, the Associated Press found at least 50 incidents of arrests at 40 different colleges in the United States since April 18. 

Participants are largely demanding that colleges and universities cut ties with Israel following its offensive in Gaza, launched in response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 terror attack that left about 1,200 dead. The subsequent fighting has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza.

“If any student involved in a crime related to these immoral, un-American protests, their federal aid should be revoked,” Daines said.

The Biden administration in 2022 sought to forgive up to $20,000 in student loan debt per borrower via executive action, but the Supreme Court nixed the plan in 2023.

The White House has since launched alternative attempts to offer debt relief to students, relying on the Higher Education Act. Those programs offer relief to students whose debt has exceeded the original amount borrowed, those who have made payments for more than 20 years, students who attended colleges since stripped of accreditation and borrowers already eligible for forgiveness. 

Daines’ bill would prevent convicted students from qualifying. 

“Freedom loving Americans shouldn’t be on the hook to pay off student loans for criminals who advocate for terror and hatred,” Daines said.

Reporter Kate Heston can be reached at kheston@dailyinterlake.com or 758-4459.