Posted In: Future Educators, Higher Education
by Colleen Flaherty
Student activists have pounded the pavement in Washington while parents, educators and students have shared their stories to tell Congress that doubling the federal student loan interest rate will hurt America’s students and their families. However, as Congress is winding down for the Fourth of July recess, they failed to pass legislation in time to prevent the rate from doubling from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent.
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But for advocates of students and middle class families in Congress, the fight to keep the rate low will continue.
Sen. Jack Reed, who authored the Keep Student Loans Affordable Act that would keep the federal student loan rate at 3.4 percent for another year, stated that it’s essential to pass a bill that gets it right and doesn’t put the deficit on the backs on students.
“Students across this country would rather have no deal than a bad deal,” said Reed. “We’re at the point where we have to do our best to extend the 3.4 percent interest rate while we work on a good deal, not just any deal.”
Reed, as well as Sen. Tom Harkin, Sen. Al Franken, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and 34 additional Senate cosponsors, plans to make passing this bill a top priority when they return from recess.
Dennis Van Roekel, Arizona teacher and National Education Association president, expressed concern over the federal student loan rate, which is set to double Monday. However, he applauds Reed and the bill’s supporters.
“The one-year extension Senate Democratic leaders are proposing will go a long way towards making sure that our students and their families don’t pay the price for Congressional inaction,” said Van Roekel, who represents 3 million educators nationwide.
The high cost of college is harmful to our students, harmful to parents and harmful to the economy. It is disappointing that pursuing a higher education will continue to become even more difficult for our nation’s students. Not only is student loan debt a burden on college graduates, but the rising cost of college dissuades younger students from applying to college in the first place.
Making higher education affordable and student loans accessible is critical, especially considering that some 60 percent of students must borrow to attend college. College graduates have an average of $27,000 in student loan debt, and total student debt in this country passed $1 trillion just last year.
Van Roekel also spoke out against the counterproposal passed by the House of Representatives. The proposal would include a variable student loan interest rate and allow interest rates to rise without a cap, which could cost students even more than letting the rates double.
“Plans that claim to raise billions of dollars off of student loans to go towards deficit reduction are misguided. We should avoid at all cost to balance the budget on the backs of America’s students, many of whom are struggling to afford higher education,” said Van Roekel.
“We urge Congress to put students before politics and put aside partisan bickering. Our students are our country’s future, and we should not bankrupt them.”
If you’re concerned about the student loan interest rate, contact your congressperson today and tell them not to double the rates!