Competition in our global economy is increasing and a college education is getting more expensive. This is counterintuitive. If our nation is going to remain competitive in our global economy, then we must continue producing the world's best entrepreneurs and innovators. And if we are going to continue producing the world's best entrepreneurs and innovators, then a college education must be an affordable option for working families.
An affordable college education is what allowed America to become a world economic superpower. In the 19th century, in response to industrialization and the need for workers to have practical skills in science and engineering, our nation passed the Morrill Act. Hundreds of thousands of acres of federal land were allocated to the states so that they could develop or sell it for the purpose of establishing colleges. The colleges were affordable for working families. Middle class sons and daughters attended these universities, they learned new skills, they graduated, and America created the highest quality workforce in the world. This commitment to affordable higher education continued with the GI Bill after World War II which created such a strong and skilled middle class that America's economy was unrivaled throughout the 20th century. And if our nation is going to remain an economic superpower in the 21st century, access to an affordable college education is a commitment we must continue today.
However, in the last decade tuition rates at four-year colleges and universities have risen by more than 32 percent. This has forced many young Americans to assume historically high levels of student loan debt. Student loan debt is so high that it now exceeds credit card debt in the United States. I have met with students across our district who tell me they are terrified of graduating with high debt and few job prospects because of the struggling economy.
The problem will only get worse if Congress doesn't act. On July 1, interest rates on need-based federal Stafford student loans will double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. According to the Committee on Education and Workforce, if these interest rates are allowed to double, 572,000 students across California will see their debt load increase by more than $476 million, and more than seven million students nationwide will incur an additional $6.3 billion in repayment costs for the next academic year. This means that next year, and every additional year that Congress doesn't act, college gets $1,000 more expensive for each student borrower. This comes at the same time state funding for higher education is being reduced causing tuition rates to soar and limiting class availability, increasing the time it takes to graduate.
On April 27, the House Majority passed a partisan bill to block the interest rate increase -- but paid for it by eliminating funding for preventive health care, like screening for cervical cancer and breast cancer. This is the wrong choice for America.
I have co-authored legislation that would keep interest rates at their current levels without cuts to preventive health care. The House Majority needs to put politics aside, drop their insistence that we slash preventive care funding and pass this legislation so that students can afford to go to college and get the skills they need to compete in our global economy.
This is an investment in America's future. We have come together and made this investment before. President Lincoln signed the Morrill Act and it allowed America to emerge as the world's leading economic superpower. FDR signed the GI Bill and more than two million World War II veterans were able to earn an affordable college education. I know we can come together and do it again.
This should not be about politics. This should be about taking the first of many steps towards the goal of making sure our next generation of workers has the education and training they need to keep America's economy strong and competitive for years to come. And no matter on what side of the aisle we sit, it is a step we should take together.
Member of Congress