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Alexander Votes NO on “Wasting a Week on a Political Stunt While Veterans are Standing in Line at Clinics Waiting for Us to Act”

Says Senate should send Democrats’ student loan “stunt” to the education committee and move to veterans’ bill before noon


“College graduates don't need a $1-a-day subsidy to pay off their $27,000 loan, which is the average for a four-year degree. They need a job.” –Lamar Alexander

Washington, D.C., June 11 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the senior Republican on the Senate education committee, today voted against moving to the Senate Democrats’ “political stunt” on student loans, saying the Senate shouldn’t “waste time on it when veterans are standing in line waiting for us to take up a bipartisan proposal.”

“This ‘no’ vote means ‘no’ to a week-long political stunt, ‘no’ to debt and taxes, ‘yes’ to moving today to a bipartisan solution to the problem of veterans standing in line at clinics. ‘Yes’ to appropriation bills after that deal with cancer research and national defense and the other urgent needs of our country, also in a bipartisan way. ‘Yes’ to the way the Senate ought to run,” Alexander said. “And ‘no’ to the practice of pulling a bill out of your pocket, putting it on the floor and wasting a week with a political stunt while veterans are standing in line at a clinic waiting for us to act.”

Alexander added: “This is not a serious proposal. It's not going to help people. College graduates don't need a $1 a day subsidy to pay off their $27,000 loan, which is the average for a four-year degree. They need a job.”

On Friday, the Labor Department reported that 12.2 percent of American workers are still out of work, working part-time when they want full-time work, or have given up looking for a job.

Alexander, a former U.S. Secretary of Education and former President of the University of Tennessee, helped put together last year’s bipartisan agreement to reduce interest rates on new student loans. He led Republican opposition to the Senate Democrats’ proposal this week. In a floor speech yesterday, he explained that the bill “raises individual income  taxes by $72 billion and could add up to $420 billion in new federal debt to offer a $1-a-day subsidy for some old student loans.”

In remarks before this morning’s Senate vote, Alexander urged his colleagues to vote against the “political stunt.”

“Why do I say this is not a serious proposal?” Alexander asked. “Everybody in the Senate knows that. They know it's not going to pass. So why would we be wasting our time on it? Number one, it does nothing, not one thing, for current or future students. If you're in college today or if you're going tomorrow, this doesn't do anything for you. So don't let the rhetoric fool you.

“Number two, what does it do for people who used to be in college, who might have a loan they're paying off? According to data supplied by the Congressional Research Service, this will give you $1 a day. This is for former students who have old loans—a taxpayer subsidy of $1 a day to help you pay off your student loan.

Undergraduates make up 85 percent of all student loans and their average loan debt is $21,600. For undergraduates with a four-year degree, the average loan debt is $27,000.

“Probably the best investment you'll ever make. The College Board says if you have a four-year degree, your lifetime earnings will be $1 million more. That’s $27,000 when you have no credit rating and and it earns you $1 million. A pretty good deal, I think.”

Alexander this week outlined solutions to the real problem with student loans.

“Most of the real problem with student loans today is over-borrowing by some students, mostly by graduate students.  According to Mark Kantrowitz, more than 90 percent of students who graduate with $100,000 or more in student loan debt are graduate students—and this group represents approximately 6 percent of all graduate students.  This is less than 2 percent of all student borrowers.”

He offered “real solutions for such over-borrowing.” These include:

  • Simplifying the student loan program so that more students are able to take advantage of the affordable repayment options that already exist in current law.
  • Eliminating the Graduate PLUS program that provides virtually unlimited loans to graduate students regardless of their credit history
  • Prohibiting part-time students from taking out the same amount of loans that full-time students can
  • Giving colleges and universities the ability to require counseling and limit the amount students can take out in federal loans. 
  • There are also proposals to require colleges and universities to put some “skin in the game” to ensure that students can repay their loans.

*Click here for video of the senator’s floor speech today*

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