Providing for Consideration of H.R. 1911, Smarter Solutions for Student Act

Floor Speech

Date: May 23, 2013
Location: Washington, DC


Ms. JACKSON LEE. I thank the gentlelady from New York and the gentlelady from North Carolina. I thank the gentlelady from New York for her persistent leadership on this issue.

I rise today to first ask the question how you can have legislation that sounds positive, but in actuality literally puts the education system of America upside down.

First, let me tell you how frustrated Americans are as they see the drip, drip, dripping of the sequester; and I join the gentlelady in her frustration on why we have not gone to budget reconciliation. I just want to mention the pathway of education so we can see that families are being pounded upon. Sequestration is causing 70,000 children to lose Head Start and Early Head Start. And, unfortunately, 950,000 military children will lose teachers. I live in a State where we have a lot of military bases.

So when I rise today to oppose H.R. 1911, I rise with a high degree of overwhelming frustration for the people who live in my State. I am sorry that this rule did not accept an amendment that I had that would have submitted a report to Congress on the feasibility of offering loan forgiveness for those who put businesses in economically depressed areas. That truly provides for jobs.

But then the real thing is to cap the interest rates at 4 percent. As was indicated by my colleague, Mr. Holt, he indicated how the numbers would go up for the students. Well, let me talk to you about Parent PLUS. Now, you can really see the oppression on parents who are trying to help their children go to school. In addition to the $100 billion of debt that students are carrying, we now eliminate the feasibility of Parent PLUS loans. Right now in current law, they're $27,956. But if we go into this bill, they'll go up to almost $36,000. Imagine a parent with four children.

I've spoken in the last couple of weeks at the University of Houston-Downtown, the University of Houston, Texas Southern University, Houston Community College. I've spoken at Lone Star colleges, all of these colleges in our districts, St. Thomas.


Ms. JACKSON LEE. All of this does not answer the question when this bill will be passed. I ask my colleagues to oppose the rule, oppose the underlying bill. Cap this. This is not the President's message. The President had an extended life to be able to provide for parents and students. All you have to do is look at the red--$36,000 is what this bill is going to cost parents, and that means that we're going to close the door of opportunity for women, for minorities, and for Americans to get a higher education.

This is not the way in graduation season to say thank you to our children for being successful and graduating from college. Let's oppose this bill and do the right thing for Americans.


Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to the Rule and the underlying legislation because H.R. 1911, the Smarter Solutions for Students Act would cause financial hardship for students seeking a higher education.

The Rule for H.R. 1911 did not fix the underlying legislation. In fact, the Rule we are debating accepted no amendments that were offered by Members of the Congress. I offered the Jackson Lee Amendment #1 that would have capped student interest at 4 percent. This would have removed the threat of the cost of education doubling at the beginning of July.

I also offered the Jackson Lee Amendment #2, which directed the Secretary of Education to submit a report to Congress on the feasibility of offering student loan forgiveness to those who start businesses in economically depressed areas such as HUBZones.

This amendment would have encouraged young people from low income areas who get college degrees to return home to start businesses. This would establish economic opportunities for young graduates as an option for employment and at the same time bring businesses and job opportunities to target areas.

Students who are graduating across the nation are departing colleges and universities this spring with immense debt. Student borrowing is widespread with more than $100 billion in federal education loans distributed every year. In total, student loan debt adds up to $1 trillion. As a direct consequence of a weak economy, more than ever students and parents must rely upon loans to pay for higher education.

The American family has been under financial pressure for twenty years resulting in longer hours, less pay and more debt. The only reliable way in today's economy to earn more is to learn more. During difficult economic times adults seek new careers by going back to school. Parents who want a better life for their children will take on college loan debt because the cost of education requires it.

In the City of Houston, this spring I have participated in commencement exercises for the University of Houston, Texas Southern University, Houston Community College and Lone Star College North Harris. There are thousands of new graduates just in the City of Houston alone who are ready to pursue their dreams, but who will wake up to the reality of tens of thousands of dollars in debt.

On July 1, 2013 the student loan interest rate will rise from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. As Members of the Congress we know what this will mean for students in our districts and what it will mean for colleges and universities in our Congressional Districts.

Some may try to tell you this bill does what President Obama proposed to do, but it does not. The President's proposal would have fixed the rate on student loans based on the actual Department of the Treasury's cost of borrowing. The Administration's plan would set the repayment costs for the entire life of the student loan, which would have created certainty for the borrower. The President's plan would tie student loan repayments to what graduates were earning after starting their careers. This would have supported a student's dream to become a teacher, social worker, artist, lawyer, doctor or engineer.

Finally, President Obama would extend these favorable loan options to those already in the workforce who still have student loan debt. Paying a reasonable rate that is fixed over the life of the loan and would be based on what you can afford to pay--that is what the President proposed, but this is not what this bill does.

The need for education from cradle to grave should be a national priority, not an afterthought. This is a bad bill that will not solve the problem of out of control student loan debt. For all of these reasons, I urge my Colleagues to join me in voting no on the Rule for H.R. 1911, and the underlying legislation.