By Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC)
Many college graduates are delaying some of life’s most important decisions – including starting a family and buying a home – because they face a pile of debt with no job prospects. A record number of young adults live with their parents and roughly half of college graduates under the age of 26 rely on mom and dad for financial help.
President Obama wants people to believe that shaving a few dollars off monthly student loan payments will solve the problems plaguing graduates. That’s the essence of a proposal being touted on the campaign trail that would raise taxes and allow some graduates to refinance federal student loans.
Let’s be honest: This scheme is more about helping politicians survive an election than helping graduates survive the Obama economy. Sadly this is not the first time young Americans have been used as pawns in political messaging.
In the summer of 2013, interest rates on most federal student loans were set to double. The president included a long-term, market-based solution in his budget proposal and urged Congress to pass it to prevent an interest rate spike.
The Republican-led House passed a bill mirroring the president’s request. Yet the Obama administration rejected it and the Senate refused to back it, demanding instead a short-term fix.
Why the flip-flop? According to one press report, Democrats hoped to kick the can down the road to “rally younger voters to the polls” in the 2014 elections.
Fortunately, a long-term solution became law. We averted an interest rate spike and provided students and families more certainty. We did the right thing by taking the threat of an interest rate hike off the table, leading to some politicians’ current search for another election-year gambit to rally voters.
This political gambit fails to address the core of the problem: graduates entering a job market that lacks good-paying jobs. No monthly payment is affordable if you are underemployed or out of work.
The best way to help young Americans with debt burdens is to get our economy moving again – precisely what House Republicans are trying to do. The House has advanced more than 40 jobs bills, many with bipartisan support, that would open new doors of opportunity for struggling graduates. Yet all of these bills are collecting dust in the Senate. Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) may not agree with every detail of every bill, but that is no excuse for his total inaction.
Recently, Congress did come together to pass a bipartisan fix for our broken workforce development system. We got the job done because the House acted, the Senate came to the table, and the administration got out of the way. Now we have a reformed law that will help put people back to work.
Our nation desperately needs more bipartisan successes like this. Job creation will remain the House’s number one priority until every graduate and struggling worker who needs a job can find one. Meanwhile, we are also taking steps to strengthen higher education for current and future graduates.
If we enact a series of commonsense reforms, the federal government can help more Americans turn the dream of a college degree into reality. For starters, Washington should encourage more innovation, such as competency-based education, so students can earn a degree at a faster pace and lower cost.
Federal policymakers should empower students and families to make smart decisions by enhancing financial counseling and delivering better information to students looking for the right college or university.
We should improve federal student aid. Many students take out loans when other financial assistance is available. It is time to streamline the confusing maze of aid and grant programs, and make it easier for students and families to apply for help.
Congress should also strengthen the options available for students to repay their loans. The current system encourages students to borrow more than they need and can afford. We should pursue policies that ensure low-income individuals get the help they need, while also protecting taxpayer dollars.
The House has already passed legislation addressing some of these issues, often with overwhelming bipartisan support. These efforts would make a real difference in the lives of students and they deserve consideration in the Senate.
Life after graduation should be filled with hope and excitement. For far too many, it’s become a time of hopelessness and anxiety. Countless college graduates are struggling because of the president’s failed economic and education policies. Let’s stop treating young adults as political pawns and start working together to ensure they can build the future they deserve.
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