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Kline Statement: H.R. 4984, the Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act

Every family knows the cost of pursuing a higher education is out of control. It’s felt intensely each and every day by countless Americans; by parents who worry how they will put their kids through college; by students who fear they will be left with a pile of debt and no job prospects; by working men and women who hope a degree will let them reach the next rung on the economic ladder.

We know that solutions to the college cost crisis must ultimately come from states and institutions. But there are things Congress can do right now to keep the dream of a postsecondary education within reach.

Helping students find the right institution is one way we can make a difference. Yesterday the House passed with strong bipartisan support the Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act. The legislation will arm students with the best information available in a format that is easy to understand, information that includes key facts such as an institution’s costs, completion rates, and student loan debt.

Students and families currently face a tsunami of information that is mostly confusing, conflicting, and unnecessary. The bill streamlines the information and how it is delivered, enabling students to be smart shoppers in the college marketplace.

However, picking an institution is only half the challenge. Families then have to figure out how to pay for it, and far too many are unprepared to make those tough decisions. Some students choose loans and debt when other assistance in the form of grants and scholarships are readily available. And those that do opt for student loans often have no real concept of what they’re getting into or what it means for their future.

Clearly current policies promoting financial literacy are coming up short. That is why I am pleased to support the Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act. The bipartisan legislation includes a series of reforms that will help students and families make wise financial decisions about their postsecondary education.

For example, the bill ensures borrowers – both students and parents – receive annual counseling that reflects their personal situations and requires consent each year before receiving a federal loan. The legislation also makes sure low-income individuals who rely on Pell Grants are informed about the terms and conditions of their grant.

The bill also delivers more robust counseling upon graduation, requiring that information on a borrower’s loan balance and anticipated monthly payments be provided. Finally, the legislation directs the Secretary of Education to maintain a consumer-tested, online counseling tool that will help institutions put this important information into the hands of those who need it.

This legislation is part of a broader effort to strengthen our nation’s higher education. Neither this bill nor the bills passed earlier this week are a silver bullet to challenges we face. However, by working together, we can begin to make a difference in the lives of students and families. That is precisely what the House is doing.

I want to thank the bipartisan authors of the legislation, Representatives Brett Guthrie, Richard Hudson, and Suzanne Bonamici. I urge my colleagues to support the bill and reserve the balance of my time.

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