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Ensuring Continued Access to Student Loans Extension

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Location: Washington, DC


ENSURING CONTINUED ACCESS TO STUDENT LOANS ACT EXTENSION -- (House of Representatives - September 15, 2008)

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Mr. BISHOP of Utah. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of H.R. 6889, a bill to extend the authority of the Secretary of Education to purchase guaranteed student loans for an additional year. And I do want to thank my friends, the senior Republicans, Mr. McKeon and Mr. Keller, as well as the two significant chairmen, Mr. Miller and Mr. Hinojosa, who introduced this extension.

We have been reading about the instability that still exists in the credit markets, and, in fact, it has gotten worse. Through this extension, Congress is assuring students and families that they will be able to receive the Federal assistance they need to pay for school.

The steps in the underlying bill are modest, but they make a real difference for students and families. I appreciate that this bill carries no cost to taxpayers, proving that we can use a creative approach to respond to economic difficulties without bloated spending that will drive up taxes.

Since the implementation of H.R. 5715, we have seen at least 10 lenders take advantage of the program that has been put in place. Without this relief, these lenders could have dropped out of the program altogether. Up until this point, we have seen over 6,000 employees laid off as a result of the cutbacks lenders have had to make. In addition, 106 lenders have suspended their lending service as a result of the credit crunch and the cuts made in the College Cost Reduction and Access Act. Without this extension, students could attend college this year without knowing whether the financing would be there to attend college next year.

In difficult economic times, many Americans turn to higher education. That's because a college degree continues to be one of the single best investments an individual, and our Nation, can actually make. College graduates have higher lifetime earnings, lower unemployment rates, greater civic involvement, and exhibit numerous other qualities that help enrich our society and keep our Nation competitive.

With all the benefits of higher education, it's concerning that amid these economic uncertainties many current and prospective students are worried about whether they will be able to access student loans. And as more and more students look to higher education to help get them through these difficult economic times, we cannot allow market turbulence to limit college access.

This extension signals our unwavering support for the Nation's largest source of financial aid, the Federal Family Education Loan Program. It is a crucial step that will help protect students and families and restore market confidence.

Mr. Chairman, I know how important it is that higher education be made affordable and accessible. This is particularly important in our turbulent economy. For the same reason, it's important that we come together to pass an all-of-the-above energy reform package that will help bring down prices and free us from our costly dependence on foreign oil.

Mr. Speaker, I believe that stabilizing our loan program will have an economic positive yield, just as solving the real problems of energy will have an economic yield. Our energy prices and energy problems are not just affecting those who stop at the pump, they affect those who will be trying to heat their homes this winter; they affect those who will be trying to buy food; they affect not just commuters, but all of us. Students as well as parents need real solutions to the energy crisis that is confronting us. They need to be able to make the commute. They need to be able to make those heating payments. They need to realize the cost of food will not keep spiraling upwards simply because farmers cannot afford energy to put into their tractors to grow the food and truckers cannot afford the energy to take that produce and send it to the markets where we can then buy it and enjoy it.

We have to realize that the solution to this problem has to be an all-of-the-above approach, that we are not doing enough to encourage conservation by small business or by citizens. But even if we did the maximum amount of conservation efforts, that still does not solve the entire problem. It's estimated that if the most stringent efforts of conservation were put in place, only about half of the foreign imports that we bring into this country would be eliminated; the other half would still have to be there.

We also have not done enough over the last few years to put in infrastructure so that we can move energy from one part of this country to the other. There are bottlenecks all over this country in which energy cannot take place. There is plenty of pipeline for natural gas going from the Gulf of Mexico up north, but it cannot get to New England because there is a bottleneck that we have yet to solve in that particular problem. That infrastructure problem needs to be addressed. The lack of refinery capacity needs to be addressed. The lack of electrical corridors needs to be addressed.

We also have to recognize that we do not have a successful payment plan for alternative energies for the future, not only for our immediate problems, but for the long-term problems of this particular country. We need to recognize that this is a supply and demand issue, and that that supply can only be satisfied if we have an all-of-the-above strategy.

There is not a single source of energy that does not have some detractor. I was amazed to read in the local paper the other day about a detractor from a wind farm who said that the noise of the blades kept him up at night, and that they chopped up too many birds, which violates our Migratory Bird Treaty. I was amazed to find out that somebody was opposed to a solar energy plant down in New Mexico because it would consume too much of the desert land.

There is not a source of energy that doesn't have someone who will jump up and complain about it and potentially bring a lawsuit about it. That is why if we start to take any of those resource potentials off the table, we might as well take them all off because everything drops one after the other. The only way to be fair and the only way to be equitable and the only way to make sure that we have a real solution is to make sure that every source of energy known to this country, every source of energy in this country is on the table and is part of the real solutions.

Our students, for their future, require that. The parents, for the present, require that. The citizens of this country demand an all-of-the-above approach and that it be talked about in committees, in public hearings, and here on the floor. Nothing else solves the problem. And our goal and responsibility should be to come to this Congress to solve the problem, not try to create a political atmosphere so that we can take credit for what may or may not happen, but simply to solve the problem.

If we do not fulfill our responsibility, the students who will benefit from these extensions will have a short-lived benefit and will not look at us in kindness for the generosity when we help them get their education, but refuse to allow this economy to sustain them post-education.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. HINOJOSA. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank Congressman Bishop from the State of Utah for his support of this student loan extension, H.R. 6889. And let me reassure him that this week, if our friends and colleagues from the great State of Texas and the State of Louisiana are able to get back because of the devastation that occurred with Hurricane Ike, we will be able to address the energy bill that he was referring to. And I am sure that the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, and others in leadership position are prepared to give us the opportunity to take care of this great need that we have throughout our country on the lack of energy.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. BISHOP of Utah. If I may, once again; I appreciate the remarks that have been given. I am fully supportive of this particular piece of legislation, I urge my colleagues to do so as well. But I also realize that, in the words of the Broadway song, ``It's a fine, fine line between reality and pretend.''

I certainly hope that when we come to this floor and actually deal with the issue of energy once and for all, we have the ability of dealing with the reality of the situation for a real solution. That's the crying need.

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