by Colleen Flaherty
Joshua Watson is a student at Arizona State University, where he chairs the local NEA Student Program. Next year, he will be attending graduate school to work toward his goal of working in higher education.
But right now his main concern is advocating for his future students.
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“Obtaining higher education is something that is always preached to students by teachers and family members. However, they are sometimes unaware of the price of a higher education nowadays,” said Watson. “The student loan rate is critical because it’s important for us to teach and motivate our children, our students to reach higher.”
If Congress doesn’t take action by July 1, the federal student loan interest rate will double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent, which will affect parents, students and educators for the worse.
Watson and fellow student activists have been working with college affordability advocates in Congress, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who proposed that students should have the same interest rate on their loans as the big banks, and Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, who represents Watson and the 72,000 students who attend Arizona State University.
Watson is working with Sinema on her Drop That Debt campaign, through which the congresswoman collects student loan stories from around the country to share with her colleagues on the House floor.
“There are students sending pictures with how much they owe in student loan debt, and even videos saying how important this issue is. Even though it doesn’t affect most of them, it affects future students,” said Watson.
Watson believes that this issue is especially important for future educators who will want their students to have opportunity without drowning in debt.
“For future educators, we want to preach to our students to go to school, get a higher education, and we don’t want them to get scared. We don’t want them to be discouraged from going to school,” said Watson.
The doubling of the rate will also disproportionately affect students from low-income families, and according to Watson, putting the burden on the backs of these students is not the answer.
“If you can’t rely on aid or scholarships, then you have to turn to student loans since it’s the only other resource you can use. So if the interest rate is high, they’re going to have to take it. It shouldn’t be put on them to fix the deficit,” said Watson.
“How do we expect our youth to grow in the economy if they are burdened with a high interest rate loan that will not allow for them to buy a home, car or even start a business? It’s time to start thinking of the future of education, and it starts with making it affordable for all who want it. ”
If you’re concerned about the student loan interest rate, contact your congressperson today and tell them not to double the rates!