FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM) -- During a political season where some politicians are advocating for free college education, an Arkansas state representative has a proposal that would make higher education more affordable for low-income Arkansans.
State Rep. Greg Leding, D-Fayetteville, said his proposal to eliminate student loans for low-income families in Arkansas is one of the best ways to encourage students to further their education.
"We have got fewer than one in five adults in this state with a college degree," Leding said. "So we want to do everything we can to make sure low-income Arkansans have access to higher education."
Leding said the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville has seen a drastic drop in low-income student applications and enrollment.
"That population is dropping. Meanwhile, the university is gaining high-income out-of-state students," he said.
That is why Leding is proposing a no-loan policy, which would provide low-income students with an opportunity to graduate with little to no loan debt.
By waiving student loan debts for Arkansans who come from a family making less than $48,000 a year, the number of low-income students will increase, Leding said.
"It is not something we are talking about mandating. It is something campuses should take on voluntarily," he said.
According to Leding's calculations, the policy would have cost the university around $20 million during the 2015-2016 school year.
"That is only about 2.5 percent of the university's operating budget," Leding said.
Leding's proposal would increase out-of-state tuition to make up the difference. Some students on campus said they would support the plan.
"I will probably be trying to enroll in student loans sometimes soon," freshman Shane Collins said. "[The proposal would] help me out. It will end the stigma that people who don't make enough money can't go to college."
Freshman Zane Turner, a student from Oklahoma, agreed.
“It would be able to help out those kids in financial need, to bring them a brighter future and, to allow them to succeed further in life," he said.
Once drafted and approved, the policy would only apply to low-income students at the Fayetteville campus. If it is successful, Leding said he hopes it could be applied to the other U of A campuses.
Sixty other universities across the nation have similar student loan policies.