6/10/2014 — 

    Mr. REED.  Madam President, I rise in strong support of the Bank on Student Emergency Loan Refinancing Act.  I urge my colleagues to work with us to brighten our Nation's future by turning the tide against the student loan debt burden that threatens to hold back this generation of Americans. 

    Since 2003, student loan debt has quadrupled.  It has surpassed credit card debt, and it is only second to mortgage debt for American households.  We know that borrowers are struggling with this debt.  Delinquency rates are substantially higher for student loans than for other types of debt.  Default rate have risen.  The Federal Reserve Bank, the National Association of Realtors, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Pew Research Center, and others have begun to sound the alarm about the broader impacts of student loan debt on our economy.

    Home ownership among young people has fallen.  Young households with student loan debt have accumulated seven times less wealth than their debt-free peers.  The interest rate on undergraduate student loans was 3.86 percent this year, yet many borrowers are locked into loans at 6.8 percent with no way to refinance.  The Government Accountability Office estimated the Federal Government would earn an estimated $66 billion from student loans originated between 2007 and 2012. 

    Surely we can afford to give these borrowers a break and reduce their interest rates to at least that which was agreed to in the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act that was signed into law last year, which still sets rates too high in light of the fact that the Congressional Budget Office estimates show that student loans will still generate revenue for the government even at these lower rates. 

    That is the simple premise behind the Bank on Student Emergency Loan Refinancing Act.  I am a proud cosponsor with Senator Warren.  I salute her for her leadership, for her insight, and for her advocacy for students and families across this country. 

    The other side may deny that student loan debt is an urgent problem that requires Senate action.  But for the estimated 25 million Americans who could benefit from refinancing, including 88,000 in my home State of Rhode Island, that is cold comfort indeed.  We can provide real relief for student loan borrowers, and let them put their hard-earned money to work for building a better life for their families and a stronger economy for our Nation. 

    Looking forward, we need to work together to tackle the drivers in student loan debt -- rapidly rising college costs and the rollback of State investment in higher education in public colleges throughout this country.  We need to renew our commitment to the core principle of the Higher Education Act, that no American should be denied the ability to go to college because their family lacks the means to pay. 

    We need to get back to the idea that educating Americans is fundamentally in our national interest and that we have a shared responsibility at the Federal, State, local, institutional, and individual levels for investing in our people.  My generation benefited from this kind of investment.  This and future generations should have similar opportunities to develop their talents and pursue their dreams in order to secure a brighter future for them and for our country. 

    Tomorrow, we begin voting to move forward on legislation that could provide relief to as many as 25 million Americans struggling under the weight of student loan debt.  For those people, this is not a political stunt.  The legislation would enable student loan borrowers to lower their interest rates, reducing their payments and ultimately reducing the amount they will have to repay overall.  When rates go down, we can refinance other types of debt.  Student loans should not be an exception. 

    This student debt relief is fully paid for by addressing an inequity in our Tax Code that allows millionaires and billionaires to pay lower rates than regular middle-class Americans.  Student loans are supposed to help people finance their education so they can get ahead, not serve as a ball and chain that weighs them down for years and years and years. 

    I urge all my colleagues to support the Bank on Student Emergency Loan Refinancing Act. 

    I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.