As the cost of higher-education soars, a New Jersey congresswoman is helping spearhead the effort to pass a measure designed to produce a debt-free college education.

Stanford University commencement on June 15, 2014 in Stanford, California. (Justin Sullivan, Getty Images)

U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman is an original co-sponsor of the Grijalva-Ellison-Clark resolution which has over 40 co-sponsors in the House. A U.S. Senate version was introduced by Senators Brian Schatz, Chuck Schumer, and Elizabeth Warren and now has 20 co-sponsors.

"With this measure we're talking about the federal government needing to support states to a greater degree so that they encourage the colleges to lower tuition and it proposes that we have more AP (advanced placement) courses which are transferred into credits when you go to college," Watson Coleman said.

The debt-free college resolution also calls for increased aid to students and studying ways to cut the underlying costs of college.

"The high cost of a college education not only makes it difficult for students to stay in school and graduate, but it impacts the economy because if students come out of college with burdensome debt then they can't contribute to the economy. They can't purchase homes, purchase cars, put money into the economy," Watson Coleman said.

The resolution also calls on states to cut costs for students and make college more affordable by increasing efficiency and enabling quicker and less-costly degree completion.

According to numbers from the Statistic Brain Research Institute:

  • 60 percent of students take out a loan for college;
  • The average college loan debt per student is $30,000;
  • 12.25 million students take out college loans annually;
  • There is $1.1 trillion in outstanding college loan debt in the U.S.

"We're finding that more and more families and students are not able to avail themselves of a higher education which in many instances is as important today for a job that a high school education was in preceding generations," Watson Coleman explained.

Polling for the Progressive Change Institute by GBA Strategies shows that likely 2016 voters support the federal government helping states achieve debt-free college by a margin of 71 percent to 19 percent.