The concerns of students are the concerns of all Americans

Tuition costs are skyrocketing at a rate that outpaces the price of housing, food, and even medical expenses. Since 2004, the price of public four-year colleges and universities has increased by 42%. Since 2009, college students are paying 25% more – and in some states, like California, Florida, and Washington, they’re paying over 50% more.

And with these staggering costs come the aftereffect – student loans. Ninety percent of student loans are held by the Federal Government, and the total amount is well over $1 trillion – affecting 7 million Americans (and counting).

Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL) called student loan debt “the number one liability that this country has.”

Yesterday, Rep. Ross hosted a Google Hangout with five college students from his district in Florida, where they talked about issues like high college costs and student loans. Below are some quotes from today’s Hangout:

Daria asked Rep. Ross about Student Loans – their growing costs, and the future for students with debt.

“Let me address that in two ways. First, as a father who has two boys in college, I understand the cost of financing a college education. I think the cost of higher education is much higher than when I was a student… I will also tell you as a student myself the best investment I ever made – was my education.

“Our education system is out of control. The number one liability that this country has today is student loan debt. That’s wrong. We have to reform it. We have to provide incentives for both you and your employer. But – until we get the government out of the business of business, we are going to continue to amass student debt. It’s a travesty to you – and it’s a travesty to our future.”

Matthew asked about the rising cost of college and the changing educational landscape.

“Nobody made me go to college. It was something that I realized that if I stuck with it and I did it, I would be better off. But you know, we’re losing a tremendous amount of skilled labors, of skilled technicians in this country right now. And that’s a genuine labor pool issue we have to look at. But for those that genuinely want to go to college, they should not have any obstacles that would prevent them from following through on they’re passion.

“I would like to see us as members of congress to reach out to members of your generation. Because in a couple of years, it’s going to be your opportunity to lead. It’s going to be your opportunity to make the corrections of the errors that my generation made.”

Victoria asked the Congressman about the Affordable Care Act, and what the new law means for young people.

“The Affordable Care Act, quite frankly, gives one-size-fits-all health care and I’m not a proponent of that. I believe you as a consumer ought be able to have the type of health care that fits your needs… We also need to be able to make sure we reward those who take care of themselves so we incentive wellness in our healthcare. The Affordable Care Act unfortunately, as large as it is, is just now starting show the inconsistencies in the law.

“Look, we need to make sure we have affordable and accessible health care for everyone… In order to do that, we need to make sure people have choices.”

Curran asked about the minimum wage.

“We don’t want everyone to strive for minimum wage – we want everyone to strive to be very successful and do well. What we’ve seen when the government starts getting involved and starts dictating wage, rent-controls, and prices, we have a problem in market forces that adversely impact the lower wage workers.

“We’ve gotta grow our economy- the markets actually will work when you give people the opportunity to make a good living.”

Brianna finished up the Google Hangout, by asking Rep. Ross what the most rewarding part of his job was.

“I have an opportunity to affect the success and failure of people’s lives. And when I focus on the success of people I’m motivated. When I realize I can affect their failures, I’m even more motivated to make sure I never do.  It’s a tremendous opportunity.”