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Mrs. HAGAN. Mr. President, I come to the floor today to also speak about preventing student loan interest rates from doubling from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. I am disappointed that partisan gamesmanship is threatening the financial futures of students in North Carolina and around the country.
In North Carolina we are very proud of our 16 excellent public universities and 58 outstanding community colleges. In addition, dozens of the best private colleges and universities in the Nation also call North Carolina home. Our excellence in higher education sets North Carolina apart.
Business owners I talked to routinely told me that our highly educated and highly skilled workforce is what attracted their companies to North Carolina. There is no doubt that the strength of our economy going forward depends on the continued strength of our educational system. However, the cost of college continues to rise in North Carolina and across the country. If Congress does not act before July 1, more than 160,000 North Carolina students will be saddled with an additional $1,000 in student loan debt.
According to the project on student debt, more than half of North Carolina's 300,000 students at 4-year colleges and universities borrowed money to pay for their education. On average these students graduated with more than $21,000 in debt. That debt has real consequences for our graduates and for North Carolina's economy. With this debt to pay off, young entrepreneurs are less likely to take a chance starting a small business. They are less likely to buy a new car, and they are less likely to buy a home. This only hurts our economy. Keeping interest rates low will go a long way to ensuring that young people can afford their student loan payments when they graduate.
I recently heard from a freshman at UNC Charlotte about how concerned
she already was about the debt she was piling up when she graduates in 4 years. She cannot imagine what would happen if interest rates double. Perhaps she would have to drop out altogether.
A student at Western Carolina University recently wrote to me, while studying for finals, asking that we please prevent a doubling of his student loan interest rates. So in the midst of preparing for final exams, this young man was worrying about the final bill that he will receive after graduating. He said doubling the Stafford loan interest rate would severely hurt his ability to continue his education. He wants to study cell biology.
In a global 21st-century economy, the sciences are exactly the types of fields that we need our students to excel in so we can compete with China and other foreign countries. We should be helping these young people succeed, not throwing up barriers that get in the way.
I am also hearing from parents. A mom with three children e-mailed me recently. Her oldest child will be starting college in 2 years. She is already worried about the debt that her children will incur, and she certainly is requesting that we not double the interest rate on this debt.
Our students deserve a fighting chance when they graduate. We shouldn't put them thousands of dollars behind before they even reach the starting line. I will do my part to ensure students in North Carolina have the chance to thrive after graduating.
I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this legislation that will prevent student interest rate loans from doubling.
I yield the floor and notice the absence of a quorum.
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