COLLEGE STUDENT RELIEF ACT OF 2007 -- (Extensions of Remarks - January 24, 2007)
* Mr. GORDON of Tennessee. Madam Speaker, the cost of college education continues to rise at an alarming rate. You may ask, ``why does it matter?' The simple fact is that education is the single most important factor when it comes to equalizing opportunity and ensuring all students are able to achieve a better future and, of course, greater income. A well educated society is paramount to our global competitiveness and national security. Because education is so critical, I believe we have a duty to ensure it is available to all our citizens. The legislation before us represents an opportunity to assist borrowers with repayment of their student loan debt--a debt that is an investment in their future. While I support that goal, I also urge my colleagues to dig deeper into the problem, and take a hard look at the problem of rising tuition costs. After all, the debt incurred by students is the costs incurred to participate in postsecondary education. I would like to see us engage in a dialogue with the higher education community to understand why college costs are rising so rapidly and what can be done to assist students who are struggling to even enroll because the cost barrier is too high.
* I would also like to speak for a moment about the cost of this proposal. I fully support a fiscally responsible approach, and our newly reinstated PAYGO rules demand that we offset the cost of this proposal. As such, this bill is being paid for through reductions in government payments to the private and non-profit lenders and guarantee agencies that provide student loans. I have some concerns about how the cost of this bill may affect student benefit programs now available. We need to invest in education and we all need to take a hard look at the programs now available to ensure they are efficient and effective. However, we must not lose sight of the strengths inherent in our current system. Students and families benefit greatly from solid competition within the student loan program, which today results in reduced fees, repayment incentives, and yes, lower interest rates. But there is more: student outreach, need-based scholarship programs and services, statewide career testing for 7th through 12th grades--all of which are helping to make college more affordable and accessible. We shouldn't neglect that. As we proceed with this and other higher education legislation, I want to protect students and families from a one-size-fits-all mentality and ensure these programs that have served so many will go forward in an efficient manner for the students and families they serve, as well as for the American taxpayers making this crucial investment.
* I thank Speaker PELOSI and the Chairman of the Education and Labor Committee for including higher education in the First 100 Hours. It shows how important the issue is and that this Congress is committed to moving forward with an investment in our students and an investment in the future of our Nation.