US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions

Harkin Statement on Republican Obstruction of Bill to Ease Student Loan Debt

Nationally, Student Loan Debt has Soared to More Than $1.2 Trillion

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, issued the following statement today after Republicans obstructed Senate consideration of the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act, a bill that would allow borrowers with outstanding student loan debt to refinance at the lower interest rates currently offered to new borrowers and achieve much-needed savings for families across the country.

“Millions of families around the country are struggling with the burden of student loan debt. By allowing students to refinance their loans to today’s rates, we can help them save money and get on a strong financial footing,” Harkin said. “Instead, Senate Republicans put politics ahead of helping American families and blocked this bill from moving forward. By refusing to consider this bill, Republicans are hurting millions of borrowers with outstanding student loans. Many of these borrowers are young people whose student debt is holding them back from buying a home, investing in a small business, or starting a family – all key ingredients in strong communities and a growing economy.

“Today’s vote was only a first step. The upcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act will present another opportunity for Congress to stand up for college affordability and accountability and help borrowers with existing student debt,” Harkin continued. “I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure that every American can afford to go to college and gain access to the opportunities it provides.”

Harkin, as Chair of the HELP Committee, has convened ten hearings focused on the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, the main federal law overseeing the higher education system in the United States. Hearings and roundtables on the HEA have focused on a range of topics including the “triad” – the United States’ three-legged system of oversight and accountability in higher education; innovations to improve student success and degree attainment; federal student aid simplification to help ensure equal access to higher education for all students; the U.S. accreditation system; ways to strengthen the TRIO and GEAR UP programs to ensure low-income students have the tools they need to access and persist through college; promoting college access for students with disabilities; the role of teacher preparation programs in promoting student success; ways to strengthen the federal student loan program for borrowers; best practices and innovations for student success at minority-serving institutions, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs); and supports for servicemembers and veterans in higher education.

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