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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. WYDEN. Mr. President, when my colleagues and I went to college, things were a lot different. We took out loans, but those loans were manageable, and there were jobs waiting after graduation. Today, too often, that's simply not the case. In fact, the majority of students today will leave school weighed down with more than $26,000 in debt and will attempt to enter a labor market in an environment where there are more unemployed Americans than there are jobs available.

For the first time in our Nation's history, student loan debt exceeds credit card debt and now totals over $1 trillion.

James Garfield once said, "Next in importance to freedom and justice is popular education, without which neither freedom nor justice can be permanently maintained.'' He was right. Investment in higher education is an economic imperative. Education is the great equalizer. It enables upward economic mobility and breaks down class structures. A highly skilled and educated workforce is the basis for any healthy economy. It is the foundation of our country's future.

In nearly every financial decision Americans make, individuals and families try to evaluate the economic value of that decision. Like prospective homebuyers who inspect and assess the potential value of their future home, students should be able to compare colleges and programs based on what the likely return on their investment will be.

Our capital markets work best when there is transparency so we can accurately measure the value of what we choose to invest in. We saw what happens when this is not the case with the burst of the housing bubble. Our economy is still struggling to recover from the mortgage crisis. Misinformed consumers bought a product based on misleading information and, often times, fell victim to bad loans offered by predatory lenders.

Consumers must know what they can expect from their investments. Similarly, students are entitled to know the value of their education before they borrow tens of thousands of dollars from banks and the government to finance their future.

Right now, consumers don't have this information. It is unavailable to students and families who are making critical decisions that will impact not only their future, both their financial future and career path, but also the collective future of our country. That is why today, Senator RUBIO, Senator WARNER and I are introducing an updated version of the Student Right to Know Before You Go Act which will help inform consumers and prevent market failures.

This proposal would ensure future students and their families can make well-informed decisions by creating a market in which specific schools and specific programs can be evaluated based on the average annual earnings and employment outcomes of graduates; rates of remedial enrollment and success of students that participate in remedial education; the percent of students that receive Federal, State, and institutional grant aid or loans; the average amount of total Federal loan debt of students upon graduation; the average amount of total Federal loan debt for students that do not complete a program; transfer success rates; and rates at which students continue on to higher levels of education.

The Department of Education has created a College Scorecard which is a step in the right direction. The Scorecard, however, does not fully capture any of the metrics outlined above and includes no information to prospective students to evaluate the economic returns of their program of study. The Wyden-Rubio-Warner bill generates this critical information.

Markets fail when there is too little information and until now, it has been impossible to ``Collect this data in a cost-effective way while ensuring student privacy.

This proposal makes it possible to secure a return on investment for students, parents, policy makers, and taxpayers while creating a workforce that meets the demands of today's businesses and ensures that American workers can successfully compete in the global economy.

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