BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. BOOZMAN. First, I wish to thank the Senator from South Dakota for his leadership in this area and very much agree with the comments he just made. Last week, while home in Arkansas, I had the opportunity to visit some of our State's excellent universities.
While spending an afternoon at the University of Central Arkansas, I saw firsthand the innovative ways that UCA promotes undergraduate education in all areas, including science, arts, nursing, and business. For instance, the university's nursing program has entered into a partnership with a local hospital that will dramatically help address our State's growing nursing shortage.
One day later I was at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock to see its brandnew nanotechnology center. It is quite amazing. It is a state-of-the-art center that prepares students for a future in the exciting new world of nanotechnology, which in layman's terms is working with matter on an atomic and molecular scale.
Arkansas is well poised to take advantage of this exciting new world of economic opportunities and capitalize on nanotechnology breakthroughs discovered in UALR and other universities throughout the State. By pooling the brain power of academic and corporate partners throughout the State, the center's research is sure to lead to advances in the field of nanotechnology.
These innovative programs at UCA and UALR are perfect examples of how Arkansas' universities are moving forward with the future in mind. Our higher education institutions are in an elite class. We are blessed with top-notch facilities and premier educators. But that comes at a price.
The increasing mandates that Arkansas--and every State for that matter--are facing as a result of ObamaCare hurts our ability to fund our State schools. The extra burden placed on the State's Medicaid Program means much less money to spend for education. Our universities are forced to raise their tuition to cover the shortfall. Higher tuition puts the dream of college out of reach for many young Americans. This is why the Stafford student loan program is so important. Loans help students overcome obstacles they face when it comes to accessing a quality, affordable education. My three daughters attended college, so I am well aware of the financial toll tuition takes on a family's finances.
So we have to fix this issue concerning the interest rate increases before July 1. These interest rates should not be allowed to double. But the troubles facing young Americans are greater than rising interest rates for student loans.
For our graduates, it doesn't matter from where one gets one's degree if there are no jobs to be had once a person has a diploma in hand, and that is the problem with the job market our young people are graduating into today.
The reality is it is a tough time to be young. We have the lowest employment-to-population ratio for young adults since 1948. Over half of Americans under 25 who hold a bachelor's degree are unemployed or underemployed. Nearly 25 million adults live at home with their parents not out of choice but because they can't find work or earn enough to survive on their own. Any way we cut it, college graduates ready to chase the American dream have a huge roadblock awaiting them in this economy. We have to stop this trend. We have to work together.
While giving Arkansas students access to the very best education possible at an affordable rate, we must also work to ensure there is a healthy job market awaiting them upon graduation.
Earlier this week, the Senate majority brought forth its bill to extend the lower interest rate on federally subsidized Stafford college loans. I think everyone in this body agrees this needs to be done, and I am confident we will find a way to accomplish it before the deadline. But the reason the Senate majority's proposal failed is that it is the wrong approach.
Their proposal funded the extension by raising taxes on our small businesses. This idea of taxing and spending our way out of our fiscal mess is why the economy has not rebounded. Continuing down this path will only make it harder for graduates to enter the workforce.
Let's do what we all agree needs to be done and extend the low-rate loans, but let's be smart about how it is paid for. The proposal supported on this side of the aisle is identical to the version that passed the House in a bipartisan manner. It freezes the rate for 1 year by using money from an unused ObamaCare account to pay for it. This money is just sitting there, obligated for a program that is not operating, and the President already proposed cutting it in his own budget. It is likely this money will never be spent. So let's use it for a reason we all support: protecting student loans.
Student loans are supposed to increase access to college by helping millions of Americans earn a college degree. The student loan program should be a gateway to the workforce, not a barrier. Any extension of the low-rate loans paid for by tax increases is simply that--a barrier--because tax increases stifle job creation. Let's fix the problem without making our economic situation worse and get America working again.
With that, I note the absence of a quorum.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT