Fiscally responsible reforms for students, workers and retirees.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Steve Forde
McKeon Statement on the College Cost Reduction Act (H.R. 2669)
Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to H.R 2669, the cleverly-titled College Cost Reduction Act. This bill allegedly has been crafted to balance fiscal responsibility with significant new aid for college students and their families. In fact, the Majority touts the bill as the most substantial package of new benefits since the G.I. Bill. But under the microscope, it’s clear that these claims fall completely flat.
In reality, this legislation is nothing more than a Trojan Horse for new entitlement spending at the long-term expense of American taxpayers. And even though we’re considering this bill under the expedited procedure of budget reconciliation – which, as my colleagues know, is intended for real deficit reduction – this bill simply and shamelessly exploits the process. It cuts roughly $18.58 billion over five years in payments to student loan providers, but simultaneously spends more than $17.13 billion during that same time period on multiple programs, including nine new entitlement programs – an apparent net savings of less than nine percent.
These new entitlements include grants to Native Alaskan, Native Hawaiian, and other minority serving institutions, grants to institutions with low tuition, grants to institutions to create new teacher preparation programs, grants to philanthropic organizations, a new mandatory Perkins loan program, cooperative education grants…and on and on and on. This new spending will be placed on auto-pilot, rather than making it subject to an annual congressional review. And history has proven that once Washington, D.C. creates a new entitlement program, it never, EVER dies. In other words, taxpayers will foot the bill for this onslaught of new entitlement spending for years to come. During that time, it will certainly dwarf the token “savings” found in H.R. 2669.
It should be noted, too, that much of this new entitlement spending is aimed at colleges, universities, and philanthropic organizations, rather than toward students. This represents a historic departure from the intent of federal student aid programs. As long as the Higher Education Act has existed, student aid entitlement dollars have been targeted toward students themselves. It is lost on me how sending these funds to institutions, rather than to the students attending them, helps more Americans pay for college. But that’s just what H.R. 2669 aims to do.
What’s more, Mr. Speaker, other proposals included in this bill, such as the interest rate cut for certain college graduates included in the ill-fated Six for ’06 legislation passed earlier this year, will have even more explosive long term costs that could amount to tens of billions more in federal spending that will be paid for by – you guessed it – the American taxpayers. And don’t forget, the cut to interest rates would not aid a single college student. Rather, the benefit would be aimed squarely at those who, by definition, no longer attend college. While the intent of this new spending is admirable, it is equally misdirected.
Mr. Speaker, President Bush has threatened a veto of this disingenuous legislation – and for good reason. With billions in new programs – most of which is directed toward institutions and graduates rather than students – this bill marks the first step toward an explosion in new, unchecked entitlement spending and another unfortunate step toward further hyperinflation in college costs.
Indeed, the measure before us over-reaches by creating new entitlement spending for every conceivable constituency in higher education. It over-reaches by failing to focus on the historical federal role in higher education supported by Democrats and Republicans alike: helping low-income students. And it over-reaches by extracting too much blood out of the out of the FFEL program, which has been a success by all measures.
I cannot support it, and I ask my colleagues to join me in opposition.