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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  June 4, 2014 6:00pm-8:01pm EDT

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the state. people have little value, they don't count for much in the eyes of the hard-liners. they are only important in the blind obedience to their they demand straited their callousness in the cultural revolution and continue to demonstrate that callousness toward women and children in a policy that relies on coercive abortions to obtain its objectives. they continue to show this ka louseness in their treatment of the people of tibet and the p.l.a. have been slaughtering the pro-democracy citizens in bay jipping. the world again looks on in utter revulsion as soldier, armed to the teeth, machine gun and bayonet students. mr. speaker, the pro-democracy students in tiananmen square
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deserve our support, our respect, and our prayers. they e-- they demand the fullest response, diplomat exand economic. i think it's wholly appropriate that these brave martyrs be awarded a nobel peace prize and everything that can be done along these lines should be done. i yold back. >> i tweeled two minutes to the distinguished gentleman from california, mr. lavon. >> the gentleman is recognized. >> i thank the gentleman for yielding and congratulate him and the other leads of the for expeditiously bringing this resolution to the floor. mr. speaker, the exhilarating express -- expressions of support for democracy in china have inspired the world. the horrors we have witnessed in china in the last few days have shocked the world. beijing's brutal crackdown on peaceful demonstrators deserves our harshest condemnation and i believe will prove the undoing of this regime. i urge my colleagues, mr.
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speaker, not to forget that this latest atrocity comes on the heels of a similar military suppression of demonstrations inity bet. ity bet has been under marsh -- marshal -- martial law since march when chinese troops fired on unarticled -- unaarpedity bet tans and dragged people from their homes to face charges. many inity bet still face long periods of torture and long periods of being held incommune caw doe without charge. while the president's actions yesterday are a welcome first step in response to the human rights abuses occurring in china, i believe we must be prepared to take much stronger action to respond to the regime's atrocities. our delicate reluctance to endanger u.s.-chinese relations must take a back seat to our horror over what has transpired inity bet new york beijing, and in cities throughout china. aurlt more, mr. speaker, because
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we have had a close relationship with the people's republic, we should make clear our condemnation of chinese human rights abuses. i thank the sponsors for binging this resolution so quickly to the floor and i urge them to continue to investigate the possibility of taking still stronger action to express our profound disagreement with the policies of the chinese government in responding to peaceful calls for democratic reform. i yield back the balance of my time. >> mr. speaker, i yield two minutes to the gentleman from california, mr. dornan. >> the gentleman is recognized. >> mr. speaker, i have spoken less frequently this half of the 101st congress than all of my 11 years here. but i anticipate with new leadership and new action and hopefully a bipartisan foreign policy, finally, that that will change. this congress has never been the same since the second session of
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the 90th congress in 1968. it began with the tet offensive, it saw the assassination and murder of bobby kennedy and then martin luther king and this house lost its bipartisan approach to foreign policy. the scars of the vietnam war, our new president mentioned in his inaugural address. but what's happening in china is the reason we were in indochina. i hope all members here who found the communist government in nicaragua acceptable will take note that this very week, daniel ortega and the government in hanoi approved the slaughter of thousands of students in the streets of china. sitting in the speaker's chair is one othey have more distinguished vietnam veterans in this house and i ask the distinguished gentleman from pennsylvania if he recalls the
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patch hat he wore, the with the wall of china being peer -- pierced by the sword of truth. what we see before us now is at pope pius xi called the intrinsic inherent evil of communism. whether it's in hanoi or in angola or in moscow or in beijing, what we see is the murder of innocent people by a corrupt communist regime that has lost its way. why are we always so surprised when communists who do not believe in any kind of a supreme being or a god kill people who -- >> i ask the gentleman for one minute. >> i yield the gentleman one minute. >> >> kill people when they're about to lose their power because after all human beings are nothing but walk, talking primates, worker ants to be
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treated as so much chattel. so when people get in their way they kill them because there's no immortal soul, there's no eternity, there's no supreme creator to be reckoned with. what we're seing this week should change this house intrinsically and fundamentally. we should never again have these debates on this house floor over communist governments anywhere in the world. our oldest member passed away within the last few days. he laid in state. can anybody forget his last, most stirring speech on this house floor? in reference to ortega. i hope the chairman of the foreign affairs committee remembers it. i wish mr. bonyer was still on the floor. do you know what our great claude pepper's stirring line was that got him a standing ovation from both sides of the aisle? he said get those communists out of there, referring to central america. we'll never see true peace in moscow and china until we get
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those communists out of there. let's have a unified foreign policy for the rest of this great policy. thank you, mr. speaker. >> i yield@gentleman from texas for unanimous consent request. >> thank you, mr. speaker. mr. chairman, thank you very much. i rise in support of the chairman's resolution and ask unanimous consent to revise and extend my remarks. the speaker pro tempore: without objection. >> i yield two minutes to the distinguished gentleman from indiana, mr. mcclosekey. >> the gentleman is recognize. >> i rise in vigorous support of this legislation, h.con.res. 136. would like to commend the chairmen for their leadership, particularly their eloquent statements over the weekend on this great crisis. i met with more than 50 chinese students at indiana university to discuss the tiananmen square massacre. all the students understandably expressed their grief and outrage. it would be necessary to be there and talk with them and meet with each of them
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one-on-one to understand the depth of their grief and outrage. in their eyes, the slaughter cawed the rule regular jet stream to lose all legitimacy. it's destroyed the trust of the people who will determine that nation's future. every student there expressed extreme hostility toward the present regime, including the who rxist of the some 60 would still say he's a communist but doesn't support this regime that bodes ill for the future of the regime. the student's faith in democracy remains unabated. the u.s. remains their hope and they wait for us to do more, much more. they content if we do not, things will only get worsial i comment president bush for his decisions but more must be done at my request, with the
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chairman's cooperation this legislation includes language urging immediate chinese cooperation with emergency food and medical assistance efforts. it is imperative that efforts by the red cross and other international agencies to treat the injured be supported to the fullest extent. i am not hopeful that the government of beijing will allow this assistance but they definitely should. the immediate alleviation of the suffering of the wounded should be of paramount concern of the international community. >> the gentleman's time has expired. the gentleman from michigan. >> madam chairman, i yield two minutes to the gentleman from california, mr. drier. >> the gentleman is recognized. >> i ask unanimous consent to revise and extend my remarks. >> without objection. >> i thank my friend from michigan this distinguished ranking minority member for the recognition. i take the well to understore something i said earlier this morning when i had just a few hours before returned from observing the election in poland.
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and that is the tragedy which took place in tiananmen square had a ripple effect on the election in poland. it led the polish people to want to vote even more than they already did. they couldn't help but feel an afin ty with the young people who have tragically suffered in beijing. mr. speaker, it is critical that we do everything we can to encourage the democratic process around the world because as i said many times, the united states of america is the last bastion of freedom and this body is respected throughout the world and this action, with this amendment, to this resolution, is critically important and i commend the distinguished chairman of the committee, and my friend from michigan for bringing it forward. >> minneapolis.
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>> the gentleman from florida. >> i yield the last two minutes to the distinguished gentleman from new york, mr. engel. >> the gentleman is recognized for two minutes. >> thank you, minneapolis. as a member of this -- thank you, minneapolis. as a member of -- madam speaker. as a member of the foreign affairs committee, i commend our chairman for offering this amendment. i watched the events as have millions of other americans in the last few day, the events in china, with amazement. watching the television, listening to the reports. only a year or two ago, no one could have imagined that this sort of thing could have happened and yet here it is and what it does show is that people's yearning for freedom and democracy, no matter where they may be, can never be suppressed. i think we take pride as americans that our government leads the way and our country leads the way in freedom and democracy. representing new york city and the surrounding area i'm proud
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every time i go into new york harbor and see the statue of liberty. yet what i saw in tiananmen square, with the students had done by erecting their own statue of liberty, we knew democracy could never be stopped anywhere in the world, not even in the people's republic of china. it's very good that this government, the united states government, has tried for many years to foster closer ties with the chinese people, one billion chinese people. and i think it's time now, though that we express our disgust and revulsion at what the so-called people's liberation army has been doing to their own people. i'm very happy that president bush has decided -- >> we'll leave this recorded program to take you live to the capitol for remarks by senators after a brief big senior obama administration officials following the release of sergeant bowe bergdahl in afghanistan. patrick leahy just leaving the
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microphones, we expect other senators to possibly have remarks. the senate heard the -- the full senate heard from james dobbins, the top state department official working on afghanistan and pakistan officials. he was joined by officials from the pentagon and intelligence community to ex-plage -- explain the exchange of five taliban prisoners for sergeant bergdahl. our cameras set up outside that meeting room to catch any comments by other senators fol throwing briefing. >> mr. inhofe, can we ask you to come to the microphone here? pretty please with sugar on top?
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>> again our camera at the capitol to catch any comments by senators following a briefing to the full senate on the deal that secured freedom for sergeant bowe bergdahl in afghanistan, senior oba in a administration officials headed to the capitol to evening -- this evening to brief all senators who wish to
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attend. from politico earlier today, the officials would likely get an earful from members of both parties who have expressed frustration that the administration didn't comply with legal requirements to give congress 30 days' notice before engaging in prisoner swaps. lawmakers are also questioning the wisdom of exchanging five taliban prisoner december tained in guantanamo bay, cuba, for a single u.s. prisoner, especially one who is facing growing allegations that he deserted his colleagues. ahead of the meet, the only senator to receive a heads up before the release, senate majority leader harry reid, took to the floor to defend president barack obama's deal that from politico earlier today. [captioning performed by
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national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2014]
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>> again our camera at the capitol following a full senate brief big senior obama administration officials today on the deal that secured freedom for sergeant bowe bergdahl in afghanistan. james dobbins, the top state department official working on afghanistan and pakistan issues joined officials from the pentagon and intelligence community to explain the exchange of five taliban prisoners for sergeant bergdahl. a couple of senators have come out of that meet, haven't had a lot to say as of yet but our camera is set just in case they do. again, from politico earlier today, the white house is moving quickly to quell growing
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bipartisan concern that congress was kept in the dark about the controversial deal with the taliban to release sergeant bowe bergdahl. senior administration officials to head to capitol hill this evening for a rare private meeting with all 100 senators in a secure facility in the capitol visitor's senator. this is live coverage. we're waiting to see if another senator may come out to the microphones.
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>> senator, would you step to the microphones for a second? >> i'm not going to comment. dewpoint me to just talk? listen, i remain deeply skeptical today as i did before this conversation we just had with the administration. for two days now we've asked questions, many of which have not yet been fully answered.
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beyond that, i would say i remain increasingly convinced that these five individual that was been released will soon return to the fight against america and i remain increasingly convinced that we have now, the president has now set a precedent that will encourage enemies of the united states to target american men and women in uniform, to capture them in order to carry out a similar exchange in the future. >> do you believe the president violated the law when he did not give congress 30 days' notice of this? >> in my opinion, there's no question the president violated the law by not notifying congress but the most pressing challenge is that the president released five of the most dangerous individuals in guantanamo if not the five most dangerous. they will soon return to the fight against america and our interests around the world and we have now created an incentive for the enemies of the united states to try to capture american men and women in uniform in an effort to exchange them. >> will you give any
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reassurances -- were you given assurances about the future in the briefing? >> assurances about? >> the u.s. in the future. >> it's my opinion that this has created incentives for others to try to capture americans and exchange them. >> [inaudible] >> i did not. i'm not talking about that right now. that's not something i've called for, we're not at that level at this point. i think at this point the most immediate concern we have is what danger does this now pose to other american men and women in uniform around the world? what ensentiv have we created for other american men and women to be captured and beyond that, what are these five individuals going to do when they return to the fight which i believe will happen sooner rather than later. >> did you find the individuals more dangerous than khalid sheikh muhammad or the 9/11 plotters? >> there's a reason the taliban wanted those five individuals
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released. these five individuals, i've heard another senator describe, were the crown jewels, his term, not mine, of those in captivity. ere's a reason the taliban wanted these released. these were taliban leaders. five extremely dangerous individuals, who have increased credibility buzz of the time they served in guantanamo, have been released and will soon return to the fight against america. >> in the briefing did they talk about what kind of security precautions were promised? >> not in great detail beyond the fact that they made a promise. again, i remain concerned not about the capability but about the willingness to have the qatari government to monitor these individuals and even then it's far limited period of time at which point by all estimates, including that of the administration, at least four of these five individuals will return to the fight against america. >> did they give you a sense
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that any more detainees will be released in the future from guantanamo? >> they didn't discuss that. >> were any of those issues brought up? >> that wasn't discussed today. i would imagine that that the -- that the administration would talk about that as part of a broader effort of reconciliation in afghanistan. i think that they would justify this as part of an effort of reconciliation. but the way i view it is this returned five very dangerous people to the fight against america and i believe it was done as part of a political narrative that the president tried to further last week that the war in afghanistan was over and our last prisoner had been rurped. i've always been highly skeptical of rejit mat -- gitimizing that government described in rules of war.
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this is an organized terrorist organization that provides safe ven for radical islamist errorists like alcoo da. once the u.s. is no present and afghanistan returns to whate looked like on september 10, 2001. thank you. >> republican senator marco rubio just a few moments ago with remarks after a briefing by senior obama officials to the
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full senate. they were on the deal that secured freedom for sernlt bowe bergdahl in afghanistan. senators heard from james dobbins of the state department, the top official working on afghanistan and pakistan issues at state. he was joined by officials from the pentagon and intelligence community to explain to the senate the exchange of five taliban prisoners for sergeant bergdahl. our cameras remain at the location just outside the meeting room and we may get more senators speaking to reporters here momentarily.
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>> senator mark hirk in the wheelchair is away from the microphones speaking to reporters at the capitol in a rare out -- after a rare out of chamber briefing by administration officials to the full senate on the agreement that secured freedom for sergeant bowe bergdahl in afghanistan. we'll continue to roll our cameras outside the meeting room and catch further comments by senators and try to show this those -- show those to you laettner our program schedule. today is the 25th anniversary of the tiananmen square crackdown. tonight we mark the occasion with a look at what was happening at the time and the impact it had around the world. we begin at 8:00 eastern and we'll show a discussion with journalists who covered the event, including "new york times" reporter nick cass chris tauf who -- nicholas christophe who won a prize. this week he discussed some of the acts of courage that happened outside tiananmen
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square. >> i remember troops were coming in on the airport road a bus driver parked his long bus across the airport road to block the troops. the first truckload of troops arrived, demanded he moved aside his bus, he refused. an officer pulled out his pistol, pointed it at him and demand head drive the bus off and the driver had the keys in his hand, this is night, he threw them into the verge, the -- i verge there and don't -- he was not executed immediately. i don't know what happened to him but to do that, block the troops from going into tiananmen square, you know, boy.
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i'm incredibly admiring -- there were displays of courage that night that aye rarely seen people -- they may never be surpassed. >> tonight at 8:00 eastern, more from journalists who covered the tiananmen square protest stories as well as president bush's national security advisor brent scowcroft. coming up, we look at the release of sergeant bowe bergdahl in exchange fb five taliban detainees. then the director of the al qaeda and taliban monitoring team speaks about his report on the rise of fighters in syria since the start of the war. after that, alan gomez on recent reports finding that thousands of imgrant children are coming across the border unaccompanied by patients or relatives.
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plus your phone calls, facebook comments and tweet. "washington journal" live thursday at 7:00 a.m. eastern on c-span. next, a senate banking subcommittee holds a hearing on student loan interest rates and how they're impacting the u.s. economy. ohio senator brown recently introduced a bill to allow students with outstanding student loans to refinance at a lower interest rate being offered to new borrowers. this is an hour. >> the committee will come to order. thank you for coming back and being of assistance to us. about a decade ago we began to see the warning signs of problems in the housing market. a few years later we watched a combination of wall street greed and inattentive regulators helping to destroy our economy. we're still picking up the pieces. this crisis, the topic of
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today's hearing, student loan servicing, are very much interconnected. we've seen far too many homeowners become victims of improper foreclosures when a loan officer could have assisted them to enroll in a loan modification program -credit ca debt or auto loans, it's second only to mortgage debt. roughly seven million borrowers are on default on a student loan. in may 20 13, the consumer financial protection bureau release read port describing the heavily student loan burdens. they have described how student loans can interrupt the slowly recovering economy. excessive student debt can defer or destroy the dreams of prospective first-time home
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buyers. it can limit the options of young graduates who would work as teachers or doctors in low income areas. it's critical we ensure that student loan servicers do their jobs properly to protect individual borrowers and our economy as a whosme i wrote a letter to banks and student loan companies asking about modifying loans and enrolling borrowers in affordable plans. no bank has enrolled more than 5% of borrowers who are in trouble. i'm concerned that student loan servicers care more about maximizing profits than giving proper customer service. among the questions to consider is the complex and opaque repayment system set up to make borrowers fail, our servicers -- are servicers ensuring that borrowers understand their full range of repayment options,, including those most advantageous to those
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experiencing financial hardships. icemans the repayment pol are better suited to contract lawyers than recent graduates. how can borrowers understand the repayment options best suited to their needs when written in legal-ese only lawyers can understand. that's unrealistic at best. in the dodd-frank act i proposed section and thank you to senator warren for her work on that there are troubling practices, maximizing late fees, activating military benefits on student loans and all borrowers acing obstacles enrolling in programs. based on referrals from the department of justice we found
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the nation's largest servicer had broken a series of laws. it's beened orered to pay fines and compensation of more than $90 million. in february, another major player in the private student loan market revealed it too was under investigation by cfpb for its student loan servicing practices. cfpb reports that congress examine some of the reforms to the credit card and mortgaging arkets such as those about transfers. to help address some of these problems which harm borrowers and our economy i've sponsored a number of reforms such as the student loan borrower bill of rights that requires workable alternative repayment options for private loan borrowers at risk of default, require lenders to notify borrowers about income-based repayment plans and protect them from penalties due to errors on the part of the servicer. private student loans generally
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have higher interest rates, offer limited payment options and offer no relief for the many graduates who don't make the amount of money they expected, who have been laid off or are red -- myfind work by financing for the future act atreses this to make the private student loan market more efficient. it would allow borrowers to refinance their loans at no cost to taxpayers. id look forward to our witnesses' views on student loan servicing practices and the opportunities to ensure accountability and better quality customer service. senator warren, dewpoint to make a state snment let me introduce the four witnesses. we have votes at 11:00, we'll go as much past 11:00 as we can but we'll obviously, i ask people to stay within their time limits if they can. nancy hoover, director of financial aid at denson. she's past chair of the national
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direct student loan coalition a groose roots organization that works to improve the federal direct loan program, 30 years working in financial officers, ms. hoover has dedicated her career to helping students aford secondary education. william hubbard, sitting next to her, serves as vice president of external affairs for student veterans of america, considerable experience ad vo kating on behalf of veterans. he joined the marine corps at 17, currently a drill regular servist out of joint base anacostia bowling. welcome. mr. robert garamilla, teaches a.p. u.s. history, he's got some students with him here today, thank you for that. he served as a student mentor, union building co-representative and co-faculty advidsor for the fway-straight alliance, a member of the washington teachers union. lindsay burke is a skillman fellow in education policy at the heritage foundation. she's done extensive research
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around the federal government's role in education. welcome. ms. hoover, if you'd begin. >> chairman brown, ranking remember, members of the subcommittee, thank you for inviting me to testify today at the hearing regarding the borrowers' experience with student loans. my name is nancy hoover, i'm director of financial aid at denson university in grandville, ohio. it's a selective, independent, undergraduate liberal arts college with an enrollment of approximately 2,00 students. i've been at denson since 1994 and administered the implementation of the direct loan program in year two of the program. denson's endowment allows us to award annual financial aid to 97% of our student body. an average of 47% of our graduates borrow federal loans and 4% borrow private loans. cumulative federal indebtedness for the denson class of 2014 was
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a little over $21,000. the william d. ford federal direct loan program turns 20 years old this year. the direct loan delivery process for loan funds to students has continued to be efficient, reliable and easy for schools to administer. even after the 100% transition of all schools to the program. when the direct loan program was implemented, all the lens were serviced by a single contractor. all correspondence to borrowers was identified as the william d. federal direct loan program and the low go for the department of education made the servicing contractor for these loans invisible to the students. the department had to expand the numb of servicers to accommodate the increased vol youm of loan servicing required for the purchase of federal lal -- federally backed loans in 2008 and the transition of all schools to the federal direct lending program of the department issued new d.l. servicing contracts to agencies
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who had experienced servicing student loans in the ffdl program and allow bud didn't require them to co-brand all their correspondence with the department's logo. since the servicers' logo appears larger than the department's logo, borrowers are confused as who why they're receiving written or electronic correspondence from an unknown agency. servicers report a large percentage of unopened email from borrowers because they believe it's junk mail or spam of the inherent problem is that borrowers do not understand who is servicing their loans and are at a greater risk of defaulting. currently there are 15 contractors servicing federally held loans. the current federal loan servicing environment needs to be simplified by a mandate that contractors be invisible agents of the federal government with identical processes and policies and the number of contractors be limited.
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congress made progress in this area with a bipartisan budget act of 2013 which eliminates the special treatment for nonprofit student loan servicers. when the department of education has the opportunity to renew the servicer contracts, it should consult with all of the stake holders and student loan -- in student loan servicing and open the contract bidding process to other entities in financial sectors outside the previous ffdl environment. borrowers need their point of contact for all repayment activities to be a single web portal and one phone number for account access. the department of education has made significant process toward creating a single portal for students who borrow federal loans with the creation of student loan --, an firblet and robust portal at which students can access every process for the student loans except the repayment process. it's been expanded so students can start repayment of their
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loans at this site rather than a specific service or website. senator brown, i'd like to thank you and other members of the committee for your support of the emergency loan refinancing act and the student borrower bill of rights. they assist borrowers with loans at multiple servicers to refinance their loans to have a single servicer and it required servicers to notify delinquent borrowers about income-based options. however with all the good options and repayment on from which the borrower can choose it's extremely confusing for students to understand the i wantry kacies of all the current repayment options. i encourage congress to reduce the number of repayment plans to two, standard and income based, from which students can choose. repayments should be collected through the payroll www.withholding. many borrowers are unaware the servicer has changed until they encounter a problem. according to the report by
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consumer financial protection bureau, many borrowers have filed complaints to correct errors related to the servicing contracts. student loan servicers need to provide notice to borrowers about a change in their service like the mortgage servicers are required to do. thank you again, chairman brown for the opportunity to provide a financial aid administrative perspective on student loan services and i'm happy to respond to any questions you may have. >> thank you. mr. hubbard. >> chairman brown, ranking member, members of the subcommittee, thank you for inviting the student veterans of america to submit our experience. as a premiere advocate for student vet an -- premier advocate for student veterans it's an honor to share with you today. we believe the tonight debt burden will ultimately be one of the largest inhibiting factors to their long-term success this in part stems from lack of access to information at
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individual and institutional levels. veterans consistently site the -- cite the following challenges -- difficult on -- difficulty obtaining accurate information about loans, convoluting pathways to gathering information and pathways and unnecessary roadblocks put in place by servicers. despite efforts to increase protections against abuse i practices, getting service members and veterans the right information about the protections at the right time remains a challenge. service member and veterans have access to protections under the service member civil relief act and access to many different student len repayment options. unfortunately, this web of support does not function cohesively and programs often function independent of each other. we have seen that many service members enter the military with freer is -- with preservice student loan debt. this is existing debt is a major source of the overall debt owned by service members and veterans. existing debt is particularly
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harm to feel a service member or veteran when they do not comply with protections afforded by sacra. there's also a common misconception that veterans who go to school on the g.i. bill have a free ticket but we know this is simply not true. asen earned benefit, not only is the g.i. bill not free, it may not always cover the cost of a full education. this is especially true for those attending private institutions or for those considered out of state residents. to prevent situations that may violate a service member or veteran's rights, we believe that institutions need to have access to a full range of financial data. this data is necessary for institutions to be table effectively counsel their students about their financial futures. individuals should also have access to this data, to achieve the highest level of consumer awareness. currently, there is no widely used system that would allow any individual with education debt to see all of their loans in a
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centralized place. meteor, run by the national student clearinghouse, could be such a tool. it as the unique function of providing all private lender data and would require the approval from the department of education to access direct loan data. to date, this has yet to happen. while we might not know that a -- we might not know the full effect of the student loan debt for this generation of veterans we are beginning to see the first and second order effects today. those with student let are guess likely to build their own business, save for a home or save for retirement. the effect of these issues will impact the economy for years to come. and will continue to distort economic behavior if not taken seriously. in light of the issues we have identified, s.b.a. has recommended various solutions of the solutions we have submitted for the record, we would like to highlight one in particular. program coordination. many programs exist to support
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the repayment of student loans, though very few of these programs have coordinated interprogram relationships. a major opportunity exists if current programs were coordinated and streamlined to function seamlessly. putting these pieces of this puzzle together would be an important step forward. the investment that america has made in the g.i. bill and its veterans becomes an even clearer asset to our economy when those veterans are empowered with the right tools. by recusing the debt burden on service members and veterans, we can set them up for long-term success. we thank the chairman, ranking member and the subcommittee members for your time, attention and devotion to the cause of veterans in higher education. as always, we welcome your feedback and questions and we look forward to continuing our work with this subcommittee, the senate committee on banking, housing and urban affairs and the congress to ensure the success of all generations of
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veterans through higher education. thank you. >> thank you, mr. hubbard. mr. garamillo. >> mr. chairman and distinguished members of the committee. i'm a social studies teacher at woodrow wilson high school here in washington, d.c. i come to you as a member of the american federation of teachers and the washington teachers union. i want to thank chairman brown and for -- for the opportunity to testify on my experiences with student debt and loan repayment. i hope that sharing my experiences in the financial aid process makes it easier for students and their families to pay for higher education. growing up in rhode island in a family of teachers, i always felt like i could make the world a better place by helping kidsism graduated from rhode island college with a bachelor's degree, having double majored in second air education and history. why -- secondary education and history. while i was fortunate my parents could cover my college
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education, i had to pay for books and other expenses in my college years so i started my career with some credit card debt. at the urging of my professors, i sought to teach in an urban area and that's how i ended up in washington, d.c. i have to admit i was not fully prepared fer high cost of living in washington, d.c. on a starting teacher's salary. after several years of teaching i knew i needed to further develop my skills but didn't want to take time off from teaching and i knew that going to school for my master's degree at night would take my energy from my students and their work. i was accepted into one of the most respected teaching programs in the country, teacher's college at columbia university. i was able to earn a master's degree in social studies education in three consecutive summers and the program, i believe, to this day was the right professional choice for me. however in order to attend this highly regarded program, i had to take out several loans despite my full-time salary on top of tuition and fees, i had
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to account for two apartments, as i could not contractually sublet my apartment in d.c. i had to pay for travel to new york, books and other typical hiing expenses. i would like to point out that while the focus of college affordableability is often on tuition it was the other expenses that drove up may borrowing. after three summers agraduated with my master's degree and approximately $37,000 of debt. while i received some grant money during my program, and subsidized loans over $25,000 for three years, i had to take an additional $11,000 in unsubsidized loans. as i'm working to pay off these loans i have been puzzled by several issues. first, my loans have switched providers twice and it has never been quite clear to me why the transfers were made. as a matter of fact, an additional amount has been debited from my checking account when those loans were transferred the last time. second, when i recently set up
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an online account for my loans i found that the information about my loan, including payoff options and payoff dates was available. that information was never provided to me on my paper statements. i'm proud of my 12-year career here in the district of columbia as a highly effective teacher. i earned that rating last year. yet my financial life has been put on hold because of the loans i have taken to stay in the classroom. my loans have a current interest rate of over 6% and i will pay over $10,000 in interest on top of the principal. it is hard to see how i can save to buy a home, though i definitely could secure a mortgage at an interest rate of about 4% and i have a car loan currently that is at 1.9% interest rate. yet there's nothing i can do to lower my student loan interest rate. with more and more students being fored to take on debt, i believe we must make it easier for them by having access to grants and lower interest rate
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loans. i made the decision to get an advanced degree to further my career and benefit the students i am committed to serving. after about two years of paying i learned i'm likely eligible for two programs that could lower my monthly payments and shorten the life of my loan. i believe many college students would be more likely to pursue teaching and many of my colleagues would be more likely to pursue advanced degrees if these programs before streamlined and better understood. i suggest congress find a way to reach out proactively to teach about these options. buzz the process was so convoluted for me, i worry about what will happen to my studentsmark of whom are grg waiting as atestify today, and begin this whole process. many will be the first generation of their families to attend college. many have worked hard to get into the nation's top colleges and yufere bus will be unable to attend because of cost m i'm
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afraid they don't understand the ways living expenses will multiply their debt and i don't want them faced with the same lack of transparency and confusion when they graduate. i hope congress can find a way to ease the burden on students and families and make attending college more affordable. i fear if we do not, a generation like myself and my peers will be too saddled with debt to invest in house, businesses or make career choices based on anything other than earning potential. thank you, mr. chairman, distinguished members, i look forward to responding to questions. >> thank you. ms. burke. >> thank you, mr. chairman. distinguished members of the committee. my maim is lindsay burke, i'm the will skillman fellow in education policy at the heritage foundation. the views i express in this testimony are my own and should not be construed as representing any official position of the heritage foundation.
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for many, pursuing a college degree is way to climb the ladder of economic stability. median earnings for individuals whose highest degree is a high school diploma total $30,000 in 2011, compared to $45,000 for those earning a bachelor's degree. college fwradge watts on average earn $650,000 more over the course of a 40-year career. while a college degree isn't the only route to upward mobility, for many it represents the most promising path for achieving their full earnings potential. the very of earning a college degree is demonstrable. the cost of earning that degree, however, is -- has become prohibitively expensive for many as college coasts -- costs have risen. average tuition at four-year public institutions for out of state student reached $32,200 and at private universities it's over -- have reached $2 ,200 and at private universities it's over $30,000.
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many leave with degrees in hands but thousands in college debt. many leave without a degree and burdened with debt and without the degree they hoped would put them on the path to middle class or better. well intentioned policies have not lowered college coasts. an easy flow of student aid have allowed students to take out student loans without any credit check or consideration for future earning potential. some say this has allowed universities to raise tuition, creating a vicious lending cycle. federal loans represent 71% of all student aid. according to the college board, during the 2012-2013 academic year, 43% of all student aid was in the form of federal student loans. the college board notes that over the past 10 years, the number of students borrowing through federal student loans increased by 69% from 5.9 million students during 2002 to
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over 10 million today. approximately 60% of students who earned a bachelor's degree in the 2011-2012 academic year left school more than 26,000 -- more than $26,000 in debt. total cumulative student loan debt exceeds more than qume rah live credit card debt. increases in debt have been driven by increases in college cost. in the last 30 years, inflation adjusted tuition and fees increased by 153%. due education and fees at public universities increased in real terms by 231%. that's an increase of great -- that's greater than increases in the cost of health care. increases in tuition and fees over the past 30 years suggest that increases in federal grants and subsidies have done little to mitigate the college cost problem. in order to make college costs more affordable, we must do three things.
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stop the spending spree, employ fair value accounting to understand the true cost of federal student loans and decouple finance bing from accreditation. continuing to increase federal subsidies will fail to drive down college costs. in 2014, the $33 billion pell grant program provided grants to nine million college students making it the largest share of federal education budget. congress grew the pell grant program in 2007 by expanding eligibility and funding resulting in a doubling of the number of pell recipients since 2008. in order to control higher education spending, pell grant funding should be targeted to the low income students the grants were originally intended to help. in addition, as long as the federal government finances federal student loans, it should use fair value accounting practices to get an accurate measure of what those programs are costing taxpayers to ensure the loans use a nonsubsidizing interest rate. in a report released l
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the four largest student loan programs represent an $80 billion taxpayer financed subsidy. the government is exposed to market risk when the economy is weak because our worst default on their debt obligations more
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frequently and recoveries from bar words are lower --are borrowers are lower. any loan program should use a non-subsidizing interest rate at which the rate for the program breaks even. specifically, the department of education should be required to use fair value accounting estimates calculated by cbo and adjust loan rates accordingly going forward. this of help determine whether the programs are costing money for taxpayers and where to set interest rates to ensure the programs breakeven.
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finally, if federal policymakers want to drive down college cost and increase access to higher education, the single most important reform that can be made is to decouple federal financing from accreditation. continuing to simply increase federal subsidies will fail to solve the college cost problem. such subsidies shift the responsibility of paying for college from the student who directly benefits from attending college to the taxpayer. policymakers should stop the federal spending spree and employee fair value accounting practices and ultimately work to decouple federal financing from accreditation. thank you. >> thank you. my apologies to ms.
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burke. there was a call i had to take. i know of your story and i appreciate that. i will start with you, ms. hoover. your testimony and others on the panel point out that financial futures of students depend on fair responsible servicing practices. students are not able to choose who will serve as their student loan. they are selected by lenders. talk about that structure. the wait is now and the better way to do that. if you would explain your thoughts that way. >> currently, the servicers and contractors volume of loan is assigned to the servicers based on metrics. there are three metrics that are
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based on satisfaction. school satisfaction, customer satisfaction and satisfaction from fsa. the percentage of loan defaults. those are metrics for each of the servicers to get their volume of loans. the loans are assigned to the servicers -- the student does not know to whom the servicer their loan has been service. they have done a good job of trying not to have mixed borrowers. they are trying to have all of the loans -- there are some students who have loans that are still not sold to the department. there are still cases where students have more than one service or. what i'm suggesting is that these servicers are contractors
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-- they can still service the federal loans him up but they need to be invisible to the students. when a student calls -- as soon as they understand it's a federal loan, to go to student loan stuff got to do everything. they do their counseling. they should just continue the trajectory of being able to start the repayment of their federal loans. when they go there, if they have an inquiry, there is technology today that would transfer that call to the contractors. the contractors can still be the servicers. they need to be invisible to the students because students are getting e-mails from the various servicers and they do not understand who these agencies are. they think it's spam mail or junk and they are ignoring it. >> how could your experience after going to get your degree
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have been better? based on the structure and the way you were treated. >> i believe the best way would be more information about how much interest i would pay. i was not quite sure about the process, even though i went through interviews, exit interviews -- i was not sure what the total debt would look like at the time. i wish i actually had a conversation with someone of my servicers. yesterday was the first time i actually met -- had a telephone conversation. definitely more in person conversations or interviews. >> you represent a group of people who have had some significant legal issues. if a servicer violates their federal contracts, should there be consequences and what should
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they be? >> thank you for the question. this is a critical question. right now, there are many bad actors out there. some are very obvious. others are more under the table. the recent sallie mae case was a good example of a clear signal for the industry that these issues will not be accepted. they will not be tolerated. $50 million being paid out as a sign that if you are going to take advantage of the system, you are going to abuse service members, it will not be tolerated. compliance is a critical step in that process. ensuring that service members are treated with the protection they are afforded under sacrum.
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>> ms. hoover, the cfbp says to loan servicers might consider private -- providing notices so the consumer can notice the transition to ensure there are no servicing interruptions. many consumers were unaware of the servicing change until problems arose. talk about your views with servers prior to and following transfers of the cost to borrowers. >> i will have to say that experiences i have had with my students have been limited in this respect because my students have been in the direct loan program and have only had one contractor. i have not had students telling me of significant issues with their servicing of their loans. that is because of my student body. i do believe that the complaints have been registered with the consumer bureau. as we monitor -- as our students
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begin to be more into this multiple servers or environment, i shall be listening to it very carefully. so far, i have not heard that from my actual students. >> anybody else want to comment on that? >> this brings up a very important point. a level of opaqueness in the system. when you're a student and you have different loans, you might not know where those loans are. if you go to log on to find out what those loans are and how much you even know, that can be a challenge to figure out sometimes. having an agri-created view of this load it would be important. >> thank you for holding this
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hearing. we should be doing everything we can to help student loan borrowers repay their loans. part of that is improving loan servicing. if we want to make sure people can repay their student loan debt, shouldn't we start by doing what we can to reduce the size of their debt loads? the federal government is collecting loans at 6% and 8% and 9% and 10% and even higher. what i would like to do is i would like to ask a question about whether or not you could talk about the impact on people if we refinanced their student loans down to lower rates. i thought you might start that. >> thank you, senator. it would be a wonderful opportunity to have the ability to refinance my student loans. as i move into my 30's, i like to begin a family and buy a home. i would like to be able to have that opportunity. guest: you talked about -- you said you have a home mortgage at what interest rate? you had a car loan? >> a car loan at 1.9%. many car loans are offered at
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0%. >> we want to be careful about that. read closely. >> it would make sense to me that maybe there are more options available to refinance a lower rate. >> mr. hubbard, could you speak a little bit about what the impacts would be on people's lives if we brought down the interest rate on student loans? >> this is a huge problem right now. if you look at individuals who go into the service of existing debt to begin with and then they are in the service and they have deployments, they have lots of protections and they are taken advantage of. are you really thinking about your student loans in the combat zone?
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probably not. you might not have the g.i. bill. you're taking a large loans. with very little information at your disposal and you might have been coming off active duty where it was very difficult to have access to anyone who even knew anything about getting the right information. that makes it very confiscated. you are not able to buy a house when you come out of your education. the investment of the g.i. bill is completely lost when you are mired in student debt. you see what an individual can do without student debt, it's impressive. it really is impressive. you have 25-30-year-olds by houses for the first time. they're investing in the future. the impact of this is on the larger economy. i would like to point out
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something that is not often looked at. the issue of security. national security is a big problem with existing debt for veterans. a service member loses their clearance as a result of their high credit. their high student debt. that is a direct impact to the national security of united states. one thing that is an issue that would be great, refinance would be terrific for service members. unfortunately, the protections offered are lost when a student desk when a veteran goes to refinance a loan. >> a very powerful point. we're talking about how the impact of student loan debt on individual is and the impact on the larger economy -- we have studies now showing that it's causing people to not be able to buy homes. they are not able to start small businesses. they are not able to start their economic futures. this is why more than 30 senators have introduced the bank on students emergency loan
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and refinancing bill. we want to lower interest rates so that more people have a fair shot at getting started. i want to pick up on the point you made. enlarge, the consumer financial protection bureau put out a report analyzing financial products. a report suggests that private student loan debt collectors may be making misleading or intimidating statements to course veterans into paying their debts. including threatening to contact a service members chain of command or repercussions under the military code of justice. in march, the gao released a report raising issues were guarding the oversight -- regarding the oversight. are you concerned that the federal student loan debt collectors are also using
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military service members service to pressure them to repay? >> i'm not only concerned, i am absolutely outraged. this is something that is unacceptable. the sallie mae case was a clear signal that this is not something that will be accepted in our society. when an individual is service, and he or a service or to take advantage and abuse those service members because they don't have the right information. if you have an individual who does not have access to clear information and then somebody calls them offering what they believe is information, taking advantage of them, that is sadly unacceptable. -- simply unacceptable. >> i remain deeply concerned that debt collectors for the
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federal student loan program are breaking the rules and misleading far worse -- misleading borrowers. contractors must be following the law and should not take advantage of people. i think this is an issue that deserves very serious attention. >> senator reed. >> thank you very much. your leadership on this issue is critical. do not just the individual progress, but to our economy overall. you are from rhode island? are you related to kenny jeremiah? >> no. >> i played pee wee football with kenny jeremiah in rhode island. he's your cousin or uncle. after graduating college, he went on to columbia. federal law requires that the individual borrower be informed of his or her rights or repayment options before they
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enter the program and as they graduate. do you think you get effective advice? that you had the full range of repayment options about public service? >> thank you, senator. yes, i did receive counseling. i did not believe that was particularly effective. it involves going to the motions and clicking on boxes. there really is not that, do you have a question? that kind of interaction. i felt like i had that opportunity during my undergraduate years. things were more clear. there were your parents helping out.
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as we advance in our careers and our lives, looking to teaching -- yes, i read through it. it was not clear. especially for someone like myself who is trying to pay rent and teach 100 students and grade their essays and finish a master's thesis. >> the tuition is still roughly $1000 a year. there is no limit and graduate schools. the counseling for graduates have to be more focused -- they are really taking out big sums of money. there is no limit on that. ms. hubbard, thank you for your service and your testimony. there are lots of rights that service members have, but they have to be aware of those
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rights. how good does the department of defense -- how well do they do in forming those service members about their rights as veterans? >> there was a couple of pieces to that puzzle. this is a great question. thank you for that. the department of defense is certainly responsible to some degree for making sure that their people are taking care of. on the other end of things, if a servicer is giving them false information, simply lying to them, who's to say that the chain of command is an expert on education loans?
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they are probably not. there are individuals within the determine of defense who are, but can they reach individual? i doubt it. that member of the military to be able to reach out and find their own information with an aggregated dashboard -- that would hopefully allow them to over some red flags. those red flags would bring the person to go out and seek that information from that dod education expert and then hopefully that would circumvent the process of those servicers lying to those service members. >> this is a rough historical analogy. in the old days, used to be able to the places off-limits. i urge secretary hegel to think about this. maybe there has to be consistent method of unedifying -- of identifying services that are negligent and doing worse.
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with that dashboard come you can have, don't go there. that's important. can i ask a question -- you go right back to the services. we have become over reliant on major entities to do the servicing. you have any advice about how we can provide better services to ones that don't try to take advantage of students? >> how we can do better with the services? as i indicated in my testimony, i still believe there needs to be one place of contact for all borrowers and that the contractors be invisible to the students. if the student -- if the servicers were mandated to be contractors with identical
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processes and policies, a lot of this confusion would be limited. a that is where i keep coming back to. keep it simple and therefore, when the contracts are renewed for servicing, maybe they would be offered to entities outside. credit cards and mortgage servicers have some excellent technology and don't have the default rates that we have today. >> thank you very much. >> we will try to do a second round before votes. a question for all of you. federal student loans are safer than private loans because they offer repayment options. we often hear that federal loans lacked comprehensive and consistent servicing standards. i would like each of you to answer a yes or no question on this. the regulators -- do regulators need to establish standards so that our words have more
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protections? student loan borrowers are typically young, typically limited credit history. they enter this market place and at the service or not service them quite right, they end up making mistakes and report loans as the late. our words are penalized or -- borrowers are penalized for it responsibly management that, if you will. how do servicers affect credit cards and credit scores? >> i would imagine that if there were issues repaying, that would affect credit scores down the line and therefore would inhibit ability to make home purchases or car purchases. even apply for jobs or government jobs. >> you talked about a soldier in
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combat. you talked about veterans, soldiers and servicemen coming home. and facing student loan problems. just how it's much more difficult to launch their economic lives. talk to me about what a credit score means to current and former military personnel who may have to ask projects in order to get security clearance. >> there are two sides to this point. the security issue and the economic issue. on the security side, if an individual has a bad credit
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score, they are not going to get a good clearance. that might be critical to their future in the military or their personal future on the private side. >> can you give examples of that? >> alternatively, the economic issue is huge. investment that america has made his old badly crippled when these individuals cannot invest in themselves and further on in the economy. when they can buy a home, th at money is lost and it's taken out of the economy. >> in terms of government investment, you see a soldier who now has a lower credit score.
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you see that soldier eligible for a promotion -- perhaps the military is looking to provide security clearance for this new position. they are denied because of their credit score in the government investment then goes to waste in that sense. >> it does. this comes to a question of common sense. we have good individuals were strong soldiers that do well, but they have a bad credit score. what it looks like is they are not responsible. the servicer might have taken advantage of this individual and what outlined to them and allow this person to take out more loans than they were capable of or just completely inflate the rate on them and they go and
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come back at $75,000. that is a big problem. there are appeals. it does not take away the dow. the doubt is hard to scrub. >> federal investigators have uncovered serious problems with student loan servicers and collectors. the gao raised questions about federal debt collectors pricking the rules and federal regulators have cited sallie mae for violating federal laws by overcharging service members honest in loans. when loan servicers break the rules, they push borrowers to do things that are good for the bottom line of the servicer, but not good for the borrower. ultimately, its dunes are not able to repay, is the taxpayers will pick up the bill here. part of the problem is, the rules are complex and it makes it hard for bar words to know
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what they should expect from their servicers. when a borrower thinks they have not been told the truth or that somebody has broken the law , where do they turn? where do they go now? ms. hoover? >> most of the time, the students now are going back to their financial aid office. they are so confused about where else to go. the tragedy is that, sometimes comest in stone do anything. -- sometimes, students don't do anything. we continue corresponding with our students who are delinquent so they do come back to us. again, i'm a small school and that is not real distinct for large schools.
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>> basically, what you uphold told me is, they don't have any place to turn. >> until we have the consumer bureau of protection -- the students are not aware of that. the lack of not understanding of where to go. >> i would like to point out one scenario. there was a service member cited by the cfpb on this particular topic. this individual went to lower their loans to 6%. the servicer look at the loans -- everything below 6% was raised. that 6% did not get lowered. this individual made a call and had all of their loans raised as a result. that is a prime example of what happens -- this particular issue was found out by the cfpb, which
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is the primary route for individuals to make that complaint. since they have come out and been soliciting this information, these stories have come out in droves. stories like that make me sick. >> as they should. borrowers should not be bearing the responsibility for keeping servicers in line. at the very least, if bar words borrowers have questions, it should be clear where they can turn for relief. sallie mae has been touting its status as the federal student loan servicer with the lowest default rate. in february, i wrote a letter to sallie mae asking for data about the company's default prevention strategy. i asked for the data because not
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all strategies to reduce defaults are going to provide a path to successful repayment. sally mae replied. they did not include the data for their default prevention program. i've asked the department of education to provide default prevention data for sallie mae and other federal loan servicers. so far, no answer. mr. hubbard, do you believe that borrowers are getting sound advice from servicers like sallie mae at about what to do when they get behind on their payments? >> off the bat, the single metric of the lowest default rate is pure nonsense. just because you have low default rate does not mean
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individuals are not mired in debt. if i make a low payment for the rest of my life, i will be paying forever. i will never get a house. i will never have the money to start a family or a business. i will never be able to put back into the american economy what has been given to me. just because the individual goes to find out information does not mean on the back and it is not being treated harper lay. we found issue after issue with sallie mae, with tons of complaints. they were the number one complaint service or of any
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servicer of any servicer. >> will put, mr. hubbard. about a quarter of sallie mae's loan portfolio is in deferment or forbearance. as you point out, the interest continues to accumulate. this is going to add to their debt burden, and ultimately made to round them. we need real data to tell us which strategies work as a life preserver, and which work as an anchor for borrowers. better data can help drive stronger accountability for sallie mae and other loan providers. i hope we continue to push for them. thank you all for being here today. >> thank you, senator warren, and further witnesses. thank you for your testimony. there will be written questions from members who were here are not here. please answer them within a week, if you can -- please answer the within a week, if you can. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2014] [captioning performed by national captioning institute]
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>> police have been out in force in central beijing to block any observance of the 25th anniversary of the tiananmen crackdown. they moved in on protesters killing hundreds of protesters and onlookers. we mark the occasion tonight at a man whoeastern with from theitzer conflict. here is a brief look. >> we think of it as about tiananmen square but it was all over beijing. the worst violence was where apartmentsn by some where senior officials lived in peopleops just mowed
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down with ak-47s. they aimed at people watching on balconies. we have a friend, a party official who adore the party, had given his life to it. his son was bicycling to work four miles away from tiananmen square. some soldiers shot him in the back and kill them. things like that were happening not just all around beijing but in many parts of the country as well. >> today marks the 25th anniversary of did tiananmen square crackdown in china. the impact the protest had on china and the rest of the world with journalists who were there and president bush national secretary advisor at the time. tomorrow on "washington
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journal," law professor jonathan turley looks at the release of sergeant boberg all -- bowe bergdahl. the al qaeda and taliban monitoring team at the u.n. discusses his report on the rise of foreign fighters and syria it's the start of that country's civil war. after that, usa today reporter alan gomez on recent reports finding thousands of immigrant children are coming across the border unaccompanied by relatives. your phone calls, facebook comments, and tweets. a.m. eastern on c-span. >> at a lonely windswept point on the northern shore of france, the air is soft but 40 years ago at this moment the air was dense with smoke and the cries of men. it was filled with the roar of
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cannon and the crack of rifle fire. the sixth oforning june, 19 44, 225 rangers ran to the bottom of these cliffs. their mission was one the most difficult and daring of the theseon, to climb desolate cliffs to take out the enemy guns. the allied had been told some of the mightiest of the guns were here and they would be trained on the beaches to stop the allied advance. the rangers looked up and saw soldiers shooting down on them with machine guns and throwing grenades. the american rangers began to climb. the 70th anniversary of the d-day invasion of normandy starting saturday morning at 10:30 a.m. eastern. watch this year's commemoration from the world war ii memorial followed by author and historian discussing his new book, not tune, the allied invasion of europe and the d-day landing.
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at 1230, taking your questions and comments live. that presidential speeches commemorating the day all on american history tv saturday on c-span 3. earlier today, president obama spoke in warsaw marking the 25th anniversary of the first free elections in poland. this is 20 minutes. >> hello, warsaw! witaj, polsko! [applause] mr. president; mr. prime minister; madam mayor; heads of state and government, past and present -- including the man who jumped that shipyard wall to lead a strike that became a movement, the prisoner turned president who transformed this
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nation -- thank you, lech walesa, for your outstanding leadership. [applause] distinguished guests, people of poland, thank you for your extraordinary welcome and for the privilege of joining you here today. i bring with me the greetings and friendship of the american people -- and of my hometown of chicago, home to so many proud polish americans. [applause] in chicago, we think of ourselves as a little piece of poland. in some neighborhoods, you only hear polish. the faithful come together at churches like saint stanislaus kostka. we have a parade for polish constitution day. and every summer, we celebrate the taste of polonia, with our
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kielbasa and pierogies, and we're all a little bit polish for that day. [applause] so being here with you, it feels like home. [applause] twenty-five years ago today, we witnessed a scene that had once seemed impossible -- an election where, for the first time, the people of this nation had a choice. the communist regime thought an election would validate their rule or weaken the opposition. instead, poles turned out in the millions. and when the votes were counted, it was a landslide victory for freedom. one woman who voted that day
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said, "there is a sense that something is beginning to happen in poland. we feel the taste of poland again." she was right. it was the beginning of the end of communism -- not just in this country, but across europe. the images of that year are seared in our memory. citizens filling the streets of budapest and bucharest. hungarians and austrians cutting the barbed wire border. protestors joining hands across the baltics. czechs and slovaks in their velvet revolution. east berliners climbing atop that wall. and we have seen the
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extraordinary progress since that time. a united germany. nations in central and eastern europe standing tall as proud democracies. a europe that is more integrated, more prosperous and more secure. we must never forget that the spark for so much of this revolutionary change, this blossoming of hope, was lit by you, the people of poland. [applause] history was made here. the victory of 1989 was not inevitable.
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it was the culmination of centuries of polish struggle, at times in this very square. the generations of poles who rose up and finally won independence. the soldiers who resisted invasion, from the east and the west. the righteous among the nations -- among them jan karski -- who risked all to save the innocent from the holocaust. the heroes of the warsaw ghetto who refused to go without a fight. the free poles at normandy and the poles of the home army who -- even as this city was reduced to rubble -- waged a heroic uprising. we remember how, when an iron curtain descended, you never accepted your fate.
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when a son of poland ascended to the chair of saint peter, he returned home, and here, in warsaw, he inspired a nation with his words -- "there can be no just europe without the independence of poland." [applause] and today we give thanks for the courage of the catholic church and the fearless spirit of saint john paul ii. [applause] we also recall how you prevailed 25 years ago. in the face of beatings and bullets, you never wavered from the moral force of nonviolence. through the darkness of martial law, poles lit candles in their windows. when the regime finally agreed to talk, you embraced dialogue. when they held those elections -- even though not fully free --
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you participated. as one solidarity leader said at the time, "we decided to accept what was possible." poland reminds us that sometimes the smallest steps, however imperfect, can ultimately tear down walls, can ultimately transform the world. [applause] but of course, your victory that june day was only the beginning. for democracy is more than just elections. true democracy, real prosperity, lasting security -- these are neither simply given, nor imposed from the outside. they must be earned and built from within. and in that age-old contest of ideas -- between freedom and
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authoritarianism, between liberty and oppression, between solidarity and intolerance -- poland's progress shows the enduring strength of the ideals that we cherish as a free people. here we see the strength of democracy: citizens raising their voices, free from fear. here we see political parties competing in open and honest elections. here we see an independent judiciary working to uphold the rule of law. here in poland we see a vibrant press and a growing civil society that holds leaders accountable -- because governments exist to lift up their people, not to hold them down. [applause] here we see the strength of free markets and the results of hard reforms -- gleaming skyscrapers
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soaring above the city, and superhighways across this country, high-tech hubs and living standards that previous generations of poles could only imagine. this is the new poland you have built -- an economic "miracle on the vistula" -- cud nad wisla. [applause] here we see the strength of free nations that stand united. across those centuries of struggle, poland's fate too often was dictated by others. this land was invaded and conquered, carved up and occupied. but those days are over. poland understands as few other nations do that every nation must be free to chart its own course, to forge its own partnerships, to choose its own allies.
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this year marks the 15th anniversary of poland's membership in nato. we honor polish service in the balkans, in iraq and afghanistan. and as americans, we are proud to call poland one of our strongest and closest allies. [applause] this is the poland we celebrate today. the free and democratic poland that your forebears and some who are here today dreamed of and fought for and, in some cases, died for. the growing and secure poland that you -- particularly the young people who are here today -- have enjoyed for your entire lives. it's a wonderful story, but the story of this nation reminds us
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that freedom is not guaranteed. and history cautions us to never take progress for granted. on the same day 25 years ago that poles were voting here, tanks were crushing peaceful democracy protests in tiananmen square on the other side of the world. the blessings of liberty must be earned and renewed by every generation -- including our own. this is the work to which we rededicate ourselves today. our democracies must be defined not by what or who we're against, but by a politics of inclusion and tolerance that welcomes all our citizens. our economies must deliver a broader prosperity that creates more opportunity -- across europe and across the world -- especially for young people.
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leaders must uphold the public trust and stand against corruption, not steal from the pockets of their own people. our societies must embrace a greater justice that recognizes the inherent dignity of every human being. and as we've been reminded by russia's aggression in ukraine, our free nations cannot be complacent in pursuit of the vision we share -- a europe that is whole and free and at peace. we have to work for that. we have to stand with those who seek freedom. [applause] i know that throughout history, the polish people were abandoned by friends when you needed them most. so i've come to warsaw today -- on behalf of the united states, on behalf of the nato alliance
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-- to reaffirm our unwavering commitment to poland's security. article 5 is clear -- an attack on one is an attack on all. and as allies, we have a solemn duty -- a binding treaty obligation -- to defend your territorial integrity. and we will. we stand together -- now and forever -- for your freedom is ours. [applause] poland will never stand alone. [applause] but not just poland -- estonia will never stand alone. latvia will never stand alone. lithuania will never stand alone. romania will never stand alone. [applause] these are not just words. they're unbreakable commitments backed by the strongest alliance in the world and the armed forces of the united states of america -- the most powerful military in history. you see our commitment today.
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the baltics. in allied ships patrolling the black sea. in the stepped-up exercises where our forces train together. and in our increased and enduring american presence here on polish soil. we do these things not to threaten any nation, but to defend the security and territory of ourselves and our friends. yesterday, i announced a new initiative to bolster the security of our nato allies and increase america's military presence in europe. with the support of congress, this will mean more pre-positioned equipment to respond quickly in a crisis, and exercises and training to keep our forces ready; additional u.s. forces -- in the air, and sea, and on land, including here in poland. and it will mean increased support to help friends like
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ukraine, and moldova and georgia provide for their own defense. [applause] just as the united states is increasing our commitment, so must others. every nato member is protected by our alliance, and every nato member must carry its share in our alliance. this is the responsibility we have to each other. finally, as free peoples, we join together, not simply to safeguard our own security but to advance the freedom of others. today we affirm the principles for which we stand. we stand together because we believe that people and nations have the right to determine their own destiny.
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and that includes the people of ukraine. robbed by a corrupt regime, ukrainians demanded a government that served them. beaten and bloodied, they refused to yield. threatened and harassed, they lined up to vote; they elected a new president in a free election -- because a leader's legitimacy can only come from the consent of the people. ukrainians have now embarked on the hard road of reform. i met with president-elect poroshenko this morning, and i told him that, just as free nations offered support and assistance to poland in your transition to democracy, we stand with ukrainians now. [applause] ukraine must be free to choose its own future for itself and by itself. [applause] we reject the zero-sum thinking of the past -- a free and independent ukraine needs strong
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ties and growing trade with europe and russia and the united states and the rest of the world. because the people of ukraine are reaching out for the same freedom and opportunities and progress that we celebrate here today -- and they deserve them, too. we stand together because we believe that upholding peace and security is the responsibility of every nation. the days of empire and spheres of influence are over. bigger nations must not be allowed to bully the small, or impose their will at the barrel of a gun or with masked men taking over buildings. and the stroke of a pen can
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never legitimize the theft of a neighbor's land. so we will not accept russia's occupation of crimea or its violation of ukraine's sovereignty. [applause] our free nations will stand united so that further russian provocations will only mean more isolation and costs for russia. [applause] because after investing so much blood and treasure to bring europe together, how can we allow the dark tactics of the 20th century to define this new century? we stand together because we know that the spirit of warsaw and budapest and prague and berlin stretches to wherever the longing for freedom stirs in human hearts, whether in minsk or caracas, or damascus or pyongyang.
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wherever people are willing to do the hard work of building democracy -- from tbilisi to tunis, from rangoon to freetown -- they will have a partner in our nations. for in the struggles of these citizens we recall our own struggles. in their faces we see our own. and few see this more clearly than the people of poland. the ukrainians of today are the heirs of solidarity -- men and women like you who dared to challenge a bankrupt regime. when your peaceful protests were met with an iron fist, poles placed flowers in the shipyard gate. today, ukrainians honor their fallen with flowers in independence square. we remember the polish voter who rejoiced to "feel the taste of poland again." her voice echoes in the young protestor in the maidan who savored what she called "a taste
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of real freedom." "i love my country," she said, and we are standing up for "justice and freedom." and with gratitude for the strong support of the polish people, she spoke for many ukrainians when she said, "thank you, poland. we hear you and we love you." [applause] today we can say the same. thank you, poland -- thank you for your courage. thank you for reminding the world that no matter how brutal the crackdown, no matter how long the night, the yearning for liberty and dignity does not fade away. it will never go away. thank you, poland, for your iron will and for showing that, yes, ordinary citizens can grab the reins of history, and that freedom will prevail -- because, in the end, tanks and troops are no match for the force of our
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ideals. thank you, poland -- for your triumph -- not of arms, but of the human spirit, the truth that carries us forward. there is no change without risk, >> god bless poland. bless america. god bless our unbreakable alliance. you very much. >> tonight on c-span, a discussion about china's prodem acy poe testers in tiananmen square to years ago today and then a look the obama administration deal with the taliban to secure the army sergeant bowe bergdahl.llion of the anniversary tiananmen crackdown, tens of thousands have gathered in hong kong for a