Mr. President, I rise today to speak in support of Stop the Student Loan Interest Rate Hike. I want to first acknowledge my colleague, Senator Brown of Ohio for his leadership. They have Ohio State, we have the University of Minnesota.
And both of us have met with students from these states who have told us firsthand what they are experiencing every single day. I've talked to students at the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State in Mankato, where my father-in-law taught for many years, and they told me about their own situations where they have five siblings and there is absolutely no way where their parents, both of whom are working, can afford to send their kids to college without loans.
I've talked to a young woman in Mankato whose mom was helping with the tuition and then suddenly her mom lost her job and she couldn't help anymore. Parents who have gone out on disability who can no longer help anymore.
So we have to ask ourselves as a country when those things happen, when you have a student who may be the first in their family to ever go to college, are we going to turn our backs on them and say, no, actually we don't want you to go to college?
That's not going to work in our country. That is not going to work because in Minnesota the numbers just came out, up to 2018 all the new jobs created, up to 70% of them, 70% are going to require some sort of postsecondary education. Half are going to require one to two-year address. The other half two to four year degrees.
We know those facts. We know how we’re going to compete in this world and that's by having educated workers. So to do that we cannot turn our backs on the students who may be in a situation where they can work part time.
There was one girl I met, Mr. President, at the University of Minnesota who was working 50 hours, 50 hours every week in addition to the class load, in addition to going to school. These students are working hard and we must make sure they are able to complete their degrees.
College tuition and fees have been rising faster than household income over the last two decades and it is becoming harder to afford these costs. We know that student loan debt has reached record levels. College seniors owed an average of $25,000 in student loan debt upon graduating in 2010, with a total loan debt reaching $1 trillion.
This is what we're dealing with. I know when I had student loans, I paid them off and, Mr. President, you'll being happy to know, I met my husband right after I had paid off my loans and he still owed over $20,000 in student loans, but I married him anyway. So I have had firsthand experience with what it's like it pay off these loans. But never in these kind of amounts that our students today are facing.
And while it's normally a good thing to be above average, my moment state is unfortunately above average in student loan debt. We rank fourth in the nation. The average Minnesota student graduates from college with more than $29,000 in loan debt.
As college costs skyrocket and student loan debt climbs, we have to consider what this means for students today and what affect this will have on our future. At a time when our global economy, as I mentioned, demands more than our workforce, we must focus on the foundation of our future prosperity. That is education, particularly in science, technology, engineering and math. And to advance in those fields, you need at least a two-year degree or a four-year degree. We know that.
We must do more to expand higher-education opportunities and make college more affordable for our students. It is one of the best investments we can make in the long-term success for America and that's because education just doesn't pay off for students. It also pays off for our country in the form of a skilled workforce and competitive economy.
We've seen this in my home state where we're home to one of the best educated workforces in the country. It is not the weather. These companies did not elect to move to Minnesota and stay in Minnesota because of our winters. They came in large part because of the educated workforce, because we had people that could do the jobs and invent the things.
A recent book came out and those that at 3M, they have as many inventions as they have employees. They average one invention for each employee. That is a true fact. And you look at the numbers. Why is that? Because we had the educated workforce to fill those jobs.
We also know that students today, both those that are in college and those who are considering college, face many unexpected obstacles, including the pressure to pay for higher education. As I mentioned, when I visited students at the University of Minnesota and also Minnesota State at Mankato, I heard firsthand about their experiences and how hard they were working to get those degrees.
These students face many hardships and they're determined to move forward and get their education. Students can work, save money and be totally responsible about saving for and paying for college but life can bring unexpected challenges and students need help through access to low-interest loans, and that is all we're talking about here, Mr. President -- low-interest loans.
Interest rates on Stafford student loans are set to double to 6.8% on July 1 of this year and unless Congress intervenes, seven million students will see higher interest rates on their student loans. A dramatic increase in the interest rate doesn't make sense at a time when the economy is still struggling to recover and students are facing ever-higher college costs and young graduates are having trouble finding a job.
I am a cosponsor of the Student Loans Affordability Act which would prevent the rate hike and ensure that college remains affordable. That would affect, Mr. President -- this doubling of the interest rate in my state alone -- 200,000 students.
Think what we want them to do. We want those students to be out there inventing the next post-it note for 3M. We want those students to be out there inventing the next pacemaker. We want those students out there inventing the next Google. That is what this is about. That is how our economy is run. We are a country that must make things, invent things, export to the world and the only way we do that is with affordable education.
I've heard from hundreds of Minnesotans who say that the costs are putting a strain on their families and make college seem out of reach. This is simply unacceptable, and we must act now. I know this firsthand, as I explained, Mr. President, not only with what I have seen in my state, between the relationship between education and business, but in my own life.
My grandpa worked 1,500 feet underground in the mines in northern Minnesota. He saved money in a coffee can in the basement of their little house where they only had a shower in the basement. And he saved money in that coffee can to send my dad and his brother to college. So they were the first in that family of Slovenian immigrants, the first to go to college. They want to college.
My uncle became an engineer living in Rochester, Minnesota, and my dad went to a two-year junior college, got a degree in northern Minnesota from what's now Vermillion Community College, got his journalism degree, went on to the Minneapolis Star Tribune where he became an award-winning journalist.
He traveled the world and interviewed everyone from Ginger Rogers, to Mike Ditka, to Ronald Reagan. That's my dad's life. It all started because his parents believed in education.
But most importantly, his country believed in education, the United States of America. That's what this issue is about. It's about progress. It's about families. It's about moving this country forward. Thank you, Mr. President, and i yield the floor.