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Mrs. BEATTY. I would like to join my other colleagues in thanking my freshman class members Mr. Jeffries and Mr. Horsford for leading the Congressional Black Caucus' discussion on this critical issue.
I rise today to be an advocate for improving access to quality education for minority students and to discuss the government's role in breaking down economic barriers for educational opportunity.
You see, I know firsthand how important government assistance is for opportunity and quality education. I know that it makes a difference because, when my brother and I entered college--first-generation college graduates in our family--we realized early on that we needed to do something with public education: it was government funding; it was access to a quality education; but more importantly, it was folks like Congressmen JEFFRIES and HORSFORD making a difference in our lives. But now we see there is still a significant number of hurdles that prevent many Americans from obtaining a quality education. Financial literacy, access to financial aid, quality education all play a critical role and must be a part of this national discussion.
I'm from the great State of Ohio. Last year, Ohio ranked seventh in the country for student debt, with the average student carrying $28,683 in debt. I also know that the growing student loan is a burden in this country and makes it more difficult for families to achieve future financial security. If left unaddressed, it will affect us negatively over our broader economy. Currently, there are approximately 37 million student loan borrowers with outstanding student loans. These statistics threaten access to quality education and must be addressed.
One way to improve access to quality education, as I hope you will hear repeatedly tonight, is through the Pell Grant. Again, I know firsthand because, you see, when I was going to college, the Pell Grant in the early years was called the Basic Educational Opportunity Grant. There is that word again.
By receiving that, it gave me that opportunity that propelled me. And now, my sisters who follow me are all educators. My mother, like Congressman Butterfield's mother, served many years, until she retired, going into public schools as a reading specialist assistant where she helped so many children understand the quality of that education and how reading and speaking would make a difference.
So you see, Pell Grants have been the cornerstone in the lives of many minorities seeking higher education and have provided more than $4 billion to African American college students each year. Without the Pell Grant program, hundreds of thousands of minority students would not be able to afford to go to college.
I've also had the experience of working as a leader in a 4-year institution in our great State, the largest single campus university in this country, Ohio State University. I am proud to say that they are strong advocates for us making sure that we continue to put dollars into the Pell Grant so children of all races, ethnicity and color will be able to have that quality education.
That is why the escalating cost of education acutely affects students of all color and their access to a quality education. We need to also improve quality education by promoting STEM programs, STEM programs that build a pipeline of a highly skilled workforce for today's high-tech and industrial jobs.
Last year, African Americans received just 7 percent of STEM-related bachelor's degrees, 4 percent of master's degrees and only 2 percent of doctorates. American colleges and universities are poised to produce about 3 million science, engineer, technology and math STEM majors over the next decade. However, there has only been a 2 percent to 3 percent increase of African Americans in STEM professions over the past year.
So, you see, we come tonight to ask this body, this Congress to be supportive of making sure that children, and especially minority children, African American children, be able to be our Jackie Robinsons, as we have today with our two leaders who stand here today as our Jackie Robinsons of scholarship.
With that, I thank you for allowing me the opportunity to come today.
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