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Public Statements

Student Loans

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. NORTON. I want to thank my very good friend from Maryland, Congresswoman Edwards. It's so typical of her to come to the floor on an urgent issue like this.

I have to chuckle when you say about my having been a tenured professor of law at Georgetown, the gentleman from Rhode Island who was one of my students and the gentleman from Detroit was another. So it makes me feel
pretty ancient, but it makes me feel very good, also, to see that my students got elected to the Congress while I was still here.

I can't imagine what the gentleman from Rhode Island went through because I never experienced it, but he probably had college loans coming out of college. Don't even let me talk about tuition at Georgetown Law School. A very good law school, but one of the most expensive in the country.

As a matter of fact, I'm still a tenured professor of law at Georgetown because under the rules of the House, you can teach and still be a Member. So I teach one course there every year. I'm coming to the end of the school year. I go over every other Monday just to keep my brain intact. Sometimes this is a place that gets your brain out of order. It's certainly out of order when it comes to student loans.

The notion that we have to come to the floor today to plead for student loans during a recovery from the great recession, when these great people get out of school, they are not likely to get a job. The very least you would think this Congress could do effortlessly would be to say, Look, you had to take loans; you have to pay interest. We know that means that you're going to be delayed years from doing what all of us did, which was to buy a house pretty early in our careers.

These students will not have the credit to buy a house. First of all, they'll have to pay off their loans. They can't liquidate them in bankruptcy. As with other debts. Now they face the possibility of a doubling of their interest. When Democrats were in power, we adjusted those interest rates. What a cruel hoax, to let them double, particularly since we're just coming out of a recovery.

College students are now beginning to get jobs for the first time. They have started out their careers without any jobs and are faced with humongous loans. I don't know how people go to graduate school like my good friend from Rhode Island.

Of course, if you go to certain kinds of graduate schools, there are stipends but for people in graduate education, there are only loans on top of their undergraduate loans. If you go to law school and medical school, you're really on your own. Those are professional schools. You're going with a huge amount of debt.

In my own district, which, remember, is only one city, the borrowers this year were almost 65,000, and if the interest rates increase, it will bring them to something over $13 billion.

I don't even want to tell my constituents that. They're depending on me to do something about it. And here on the floor we hear nonsense about ``how are you going to pay for it?'' Are you going to pay for it by stripping health care for women, children, for your parents in order to keep your interest rates from going up? Are you going to pay for it by leaving Big Oil alone in order to keep your interest rates from going up? Our values are way off-kilter when we haven't reached a solution by now, when we're this close to a drop-dead date. That's what it will mean for many students.

We haven't come to an understanding, first, that we'll raise it. The President had to go around the country, making it clear that this issue was on the front burner, because it certainly wasn't there until he did so. Now people come forward. For example, Mr. Romney said, he's for making sure these rates don't go up. But does he have an idea about how to make sure they don't go up? Why doesn't he tell our colleagues here in the House how to make sure they don't go up so that they don't hurt one group of citizens in order to help another group of citizens?

So we come to the floor today--I along with the gentlelady from Maryland and the gentleman from Rhode Island--because we don't intend to let this issue go until we, in fact, find a way to pay for the loans we have told young people to take.

We told them, Go to college. Yes, you'll have a little debt, but go to college and you are made. We've already broken that promise because they come out of college now, and they don't have the workforce opportunities that we, ourselves, had. Let's not break another promise--the promise that they will not be stuck with a debt which is much greater than the debt they already pay. The debt they already pay will delay their coming into the same kind of life style that their parents have. Yes, they're going home to live with their parents because, if you've got this student debt, you're hardly able to go out and rent an apartment in Washington, in Maryland, or in Rhode Island. Yes, they're going home. If we want to make sure that they're able to strike out on their own, the one thing we don't want to do is to burden them with a greater debt than they already have, and they have on the average a $25,000 debt.

Even when I got out of school--you know, that was sometime in the 18th century--I cannot imagine what I would have done with a $25,000 debt. Even in real terms today, that's a lot of money, friends. If we care at all about our young people, we will find a way that does not rob Peter to pay Paul in order to relieve them of this debt.


Ms. NORTON. I want to thank my friend from Maryland.

I want to add to her list because importantly when our party, the Democrats, took control, the interest rates were where they will go in July. They were at 6.8 percent. We felt the pain, and we lowered those rates to their present 3.4. But the way they were phased in, they would go up again to 6.8. Do you see what we were trying to do in 2007? We recognized this was a major issue and took those rates down, which I'm sure encouraged many people to go to college in the first place.

Now we have young people with an unemployment rate of about 14 percent if you're between 20 and 24. That's terrible when you consider that nationally it's about 8 percent. And I'm very distressed that already there is an almost 15 percent increase delinquency rates in student loans, which will add to the interest rates were talking about and the interest rates that we're trying to keep at least level.

I want to thank you again for leading this Special Order so that America knows before it's too late.


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