STUDENT LOAN DEBT; Congressional Record Vol. 160, No. 68
(Senate - May 07, 2014)

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[Pages S2768-S2769]
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                           STUDENT LOAN DEBT

  Ms. KLOBUCHAR. Mr. President, I want to thank Senators Harkin, 
Warren, and Durbin for their leadership on the important issue of 
student debt. In the United States we all appreciate the value of 
education. We know it leads to higher paying jobs, and we know it leads 
to better health and even longer lives. Education gives everyone in 
this country a fair shot.
  My grandpa never graduated from high school. He worked 1,500 feet 
underground in the mines in Ely, MN. He

[[Page S2769]]

saved money in a coffee can in the basement so he could send my dad to 
college. My dad went to a community 2-year college and then went on to 
the University of Minnesota, where he earned his journalism degree. He 
went from those hard-scrabble mines in Ely, MN, on to a journalism 
career where he got to interview everyone from Mike Ditka to Ronald 
Reagan to Ginger Rogers. My mom taught second grade until she was 70 
years old. I still run into people who tell me what a great teacher she 
was. And here I stand, a U.S. Senator, the granddaughter of an iron ore 
miner, the daughter of a teacher and a newspaperman, and the first 
woman elected to this job from my State. One thing I know for sure: It 
would not have been possible without education. It would not have been 
possible without my parents, my grandparents, and my teachers, who 
believed in me and believed in the value of education.
  I still remember getting into college. I still remember back then--
and I graduated from high school in 1978--that it was $10,000 a year to 
go to the college I went to. I remember my dad thinking: I can't afford 
this. We went and met with the student loan and financial aid people. 
He was wearing his brown polyester pants, and he had all these coins in 
his pockets. Somehow we were able to get this done through loans and 
through his financing a good part of it. Back then, on a journalist's 
salary and my mom's teacher salary, we were able to afford a college 
like that. But now I see my daughter and I know how much it has changed 
and how expensive it is. Yet it is still so necessary.
  Higher education doesn't just benefit individual students, it 
benefits our entire economy by creating a more flexible, productive, 
and mobile workforce at a time when more jobs require some form of 
postsecondary education. In manufacturing now, more jobs require 
postsecondary education than not. We cannot allow cost to be a barrier 
to opportunity when we have job openings right now.
  I see my friend the Senator from North Dakota, and I know they have 
job openings in North Dakota. We have job openings in Minnesota. We 
have job openings that require skill, that require post-high school 
skills. Yet a lot of our kids can't afford to get those degrees.
  Rising costs for education are putting a strain on families and 
students and making college seem out of reach for too many young 
people. Many find themselves deeply in debt long before they set foot 
in the workplace.
  This student debt hangs like an anchor around not just these students 
but around our entire economy, and it is dragging us down. Graduates 
with high debt may delay making key investments, such as saving for 
retirement or getting married or buying a home.
  We had a hearing today in the Joint Economic Committee with Chairman 
Yellen of the Federal Reserve, and she talked about the fact that while 
our economy is improving, housing is still flat. She talked about the 
fact that housing is flat because so many young people aren't forming 
households. They are not getting houses.
  Student debt may impact a person's career choices by deterring 
graduates from taking jobs in order to pursue jobs that allow them to 
pay their debt. So we don't have people going into teaching.
  According to the report I released as Senate chair of the Joint 
Economic Committee, our State has one of the highest rates of student 
debt in the country, with 71 percent of recent graduates in Minnesota 
having a loan debt compared to 66 percent nationally. The average debt 
load of student borrowers who graduated in 2011 in Minnesota is also 
more than $3,000 higher than the national average. It is over $30,000 
in our State compared to $27,000 nationally.
  The good news is that there are things we can do. As you know, Mr. 
President, last summer we acted to prevent the interest rates on 
subsidized Stafford loans from doubling. Yesterday we introduced the 
Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act in the Senate. This 
bill would give student loan borrowers a fair shot at managing their 
debt by offering them the opportunity to refinance their debt at the 
same low rates offered to new borrowers in the student loan program.
  Outstanding student loans now total more than $1.2 trillion. That 
even means something in Washington. It surpasses total credit card debt 
and affects 40 million Americans. That is why I am a cosponsor of the 
Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act--because it is time we 
gave students a chance to refinance their loans and find better 
financial footing.
  Education is the pathway to economic opportunity. Workers with higher 
levels of education have experienced much faster wage growth and lower 
unemployment rates than other workers. But the increasing level of 
student debt in recent years presents challenges for graduates just 
beginning their careers. These bright young people should be planning 
for their futures, not struggling financially because they worked hard 
to earn their degrees.
  Our country has come a long way since my grandpa saved that money in 
a coffee can in his basement so he could send my dad to college. There 
are parents all over America who want to do the same thing, but the 
money they have to save right now couldn't fit in a coffee can. That is 
why we have to make it easier and not harder for our students.
  I urge my colleagues to support this bill and pass this bill so 
students can manage their debt and build a better future for themselves 
and for their families.
  Mr. President, I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Utah.