Editorial - Congress must take action on student loans
Published: Monday, April 23, 2012
Updated: Monday, April 23, 2012 01:04
In his weekly YouTube address – posted to the official White House channel Saturday – President Obama sternly warned Congress to take action and prevent interest rates for a popular federally subsidized college loan program from doubling this summer.
In the absence of Congressional action, the interest rate on all Stafford college loans will double from the current rate of 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1. This change would affect more than 7 million students, increasing their interest payments by anywhere from $2,800 to $11,000, depending on the amount borrowed and the type of repayment plan.
Thus far, Congressional Republicans have balked at Obama’s call to prevent the interest rates from doubling due to concerns surrounding the skyrocketing national debt.
Although there is no disputing the fact the national debt, which has surpassed $15 trillion, must be dealt with, students should not bear the burden for decades of Congress’s fiscal recklessness.
Keeping the Stafford loan interest rates at 3.4 percent is estimated to cost the federal government $6 billion. While this cost may seem prohibitive, when the benefits of promoting college matriculation are examined, it is clearly a worthy investment.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average income for a high school graduate in the U.S. is around $31,000. For college graduates, the mean is a startling $26,000 higher at around $51,000.
Although college certainly isn’t for everyone, rising costs and interest rates will dissuade many who would otherwise consider pursuing a college education.
This will contribute to the erosion of the middle class and increase the strain on public assistance programs that are already struggling to deal with across-the-board budget cuts.
According to the Alliance for Excellent Education, only 3.6 percent of college graduates fall below the poverty line, and less than 1 percent receive public assistance. There is clearly an economic incentive to prevent a dramatic decline in the number of college graduates.
As President Obama put it in his address, "In America, higher education cannot be a luxury." Students are already struggling to keep up with rising tuition and living expenses and, if anything, the government should be working to make college more accessible to high school graduates.