Mr. HOLT. Mr. Speaker, I oppose H.R. 1911, the Senate bill called the ``Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act''. While some argue the bill is better than the bill the House passed earlier this year, this bill fails to guarantee that students can have affordable loans to go to college. It fails to take interest rates on college loans as low as we could or should, and it allows the rates to grow to truly unacceptable levels.
Wall Street, whose reckless policies caused the greatest fiscal crisis since the Depression, is able to borrow money at 0.75 percent interest, yet under this bill, students will have to pay far more than that to borrow for their studies. Proponents of this bill claim that they are lowering interest rates for students, although they do not lower them as low as the rate we set several years ago and that was in effect until last month. Worse, the bill allows rates to go far higher than the already very high rates that began in July. Why? Why should students pay interest eight, nine, ten times higher than the rate that Wall Street pays. This bill will have some students paying interest rates as high as ten and a quarter percent. Ten and a quarter percent! Maybe not this year, but in future years. Ten and a quarter percent!
This is a very serious issue for our overall economic health. Student loan debt now stands at over $1 trillion. It is the second highest debt in the nation, only mortgage debt is higher. Furthermore, to help our economy grow we should be encouraging motivated, prepared students to go to college, not making it more expensive and inaccessible for them. The New York Federal Reserve has noted that the tremendous burden of student debt is slowing the economy. People strapped with debt cannot buy a house, they cannot spend money to improve our economy, and they cannot make strides to further improve their quality of life.
The authors of the legislation passed earlier this year and of this bill are stuck on the idea of trying to balance the budget on the backs of students and recent students. Why should they have to pay to restore the economy? They are not in a good financial position to pay for the misdeeds of Wall Street. Why shouldn't those made wealthy by Wall Street's misdeeds pay; they can afford it. In the past year, the federal government has already made more than $50 billion dollars in profit off student loan interest. Why should we continue to squeeze more revenue for the government out of students and former students?
Senator Elizabeth Warren has it right. Her plan would allow students to borrow at the same rate Wall Street does, the discount rate, the low rate that banks pay. Why should Wall Street get to borrow money at the lowest interest rate while college students pay more? They shouldn't. We will saddle with heavy debt the very people we want to go out and build businesses and raise families and work toward the American Dream.
This debate comes down to an important question of domestic policy and priorities. How important is it to us as a country to make college accessible for students so they can improve their lives and improve our country? We do it by making college more affordable--through increasing Pell Grants, by allowing students to borrow money at the same rates that Wall Street banks pay. We do it by not taking money from students to pay for the mess that Wall Street caused in the first place.