Mr. ISRAEL. Mr. Speaker, in 5 days, the student loan interest rate will double. It will go from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. That is a $4,500 increase for many college students. At a time when they're struggling to make ends meet, struggling to pay their tuition and their housing expenses to prepare to join the workforce and build careers and at a time when they're struggling to pay their debts, we're going to increase their debt.
I want to commend to my colleagues a report that just came out from the Joint Economic Committee staff that talks about how student loan debt has skyrocketed over the past several years. Here's how the study concludes:
The increasing debt burden presents challenges for recent graduates just beginning their careers and poses a potential risk to the economy, since individuals who shoulder heavier debt balances may delay purchasing a home, buying a car, starting a family, and saving for retirement. On average, recent graduates left college with student loan debt of 60 percent of their annual income.
Mr. Speaker, 60 percent of their annual income will be spent paying back their debts from college. And if we don't compromise, it's going to be even more than that.
I've always believed, and I know many of my colleagues have always believed, that you build an economy by building the middle class. And you expand the middle class by making sure that middle class families can afford college and that college is accessible. I do not understand an economic strategy that says that you make it harder and more expensive for the middle class to go to college; nor do I understand an argument that we cannot afford to keep the interest rate low, but we can spend $40 billion subsidizing the five richest oil companies in America who do not need those subsidies.
The middle class deserves those subsidies. Middle class students trying to get into college deserve subsidies. But to say that they cannot have those subsidies and that we're going to double the interest rate on them while preserving a $40 billion subsidy to the richest oil companies on Earth is not only bad policy; it's ruinous economic strategy.
Mr. Speaker, I do not know why anybody in this body would want to make it harder and more difficult for students to go to college at a time when we are competing with China and South Korea and other countries around the world to continue our strength and power over the next several decades.
It is essential that we find a compromise, Mr. Speaker. There is an unquenchable thirst by Americans for compromise in this body. I, for one, as well as members of the House Democratic Caucus, am ready, willing, and able to compromise over the next 5 days. We just need somebody to compromise with. We need a compromise that is fair to the middle class, puts middle class families first, puts college students first, puts college affordability first, and puts partisan politics aside.