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Public Statements

College Cost Reduction Act of 2007

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

COLLEGE COST REDUCTION ACT OF 2007

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. ROSKAM. Mr. Speaker, I offer this motion to recommit with instructions, and it surrounds the general topic of student loan forgiveness. As we know, student loan forgiveness programs seek to help students with the cost of college or encourage them to enter a particular occupation or field.

This was first put in place back in 1958 in the National Defense Education Act, and it was reenacted and made part of the Perkins loan program, and it provides forgiveness largely for borrowers who are employed in a specific public service job, including teachers, but over the years has added others as well.

I would like to read a short list of those who are currently eligible under various programs for student loan forgiveness. They include: Public school teachers; Head Start staff, whether teachers or not; special education teachers; military members in combat areas; volunteers in the Peace Corps; law enforcement officers; correction officers; teachers in specific areas who are teaching in math, science, foreign language or bilingual education; nurses; medical technicians; child care providers; family service agency workers; researchers at NIH; health professionals in the National Health Service Corps; AmeriCorp volunteers; National Civilian Corps volunteers; and VISTA volunteers.

These loan forgiveness programs are so popular, in fact, that 43 States currently have them. Congressional Research Service not long ago surveyed a whole host of financial aid officials across the country and came to the conclusion that these are very effective programs in meeting students' financial needs and particular workforce needs.

Earlier this year, the House took on the challenge to expand loan forgiveness for prosecutors and public defenders, and clearly there is a good public purpose behind that.

But now under the bill, Mr. Speaker, basically anyone who works for the government or a nonprofit organization would be eligible for loan forgiveness. I repeat that. Basically anyone who works for the government or a nonprofit organization would be eligible for loan forgiveness. So what does that mean? Does that mean that Members of Congress would be eligible for loan forgiveness? I don't know about you, Mr. Speaker, but nobody sent me here to expand loan forgiveness eligibility for Members of Congress. And, in fact, Members of Congress are eligible under this bill.

Are members of State legislatures eligible for loan forgiveness under this bill? Yes.

Are registered lobbyists who work for nonprofit organizations, are they eligible? Yes.

Mr. Speaker, I would like us to look at some of the CEOs of nonprofit organizations and reflect on their compensation and how that would play into this eligibility question. According to the Charity Navigator, the former head of Planned Parenthood Federation of America made over half a million dollars, $500,000, and would that person be eligible? Yes, as would John Adams, the president of the Natural Resources Defense Counsel who makes almost $300,000 a year. The National Journal reported in 2004 that the median compensation for think tanks was $264,000 a year. Or how about this, $227,000 for education, government and welfare organizations.

Does anybody really believe that these individuals need this kind of support from the taxpayers? My point is that this new blanket program for nonprofit organizations will give a number of well-to-do individuals a government handout that they don't need and our constituents should not have to fund.

So the real question is whether this is the highest and best use of taxpayer dollars. Mr. Speaker, I would submit that it is not, so this motion to recommit is very simple. It would prohibit a borrower who is an elected full-time public official and is paid for that position, as well as a paid registered lobbyist at either the State or Federal level, from receiving any of the loan forgiveness available under this act, period. Very simple, very clear.

I think we should speak clearly to the American taxpayers that we as elected officials are not trying to create some unfair advantage for ourselves, that we are not trying to reward ourselves, or our elected colleagues, nor any registered lobbyist, by giving away their hard-earned taxpayer dollars to pay off student debts.

Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to support this amendment or to at least set some parameters of this big government program under this bill.

Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.


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