For those of you who have recently graduated college and are now staring down a heck of a lot of debt, you’re not alone.
Student loan debt has reached the $1 trillion mark and it’s a number that will continue to climb as the Senate has recently passed up a chance to extend a 3.4% interest rate for students. If Congress doesn’t act soon, we could see a doubled interest rate for our Stafford loans. Some students even took to the streets recently to protest student loan debt.
While some argue that the possible interest rate increase is only a drop in the bucket, I argue against it. Not just because I know that this extra money is going to come out of my wallet but because we should not have to worry about interest rates increasing when trying to pay back our student loans.
It’s not like we racked up $30,000 at the mall! We spent this money trying to get an education to better ourselves and the lives of our future families. We should not be punished for trying to pursue higher education.
Here are some of the recent remarks from President Obama during his talk at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Va., on May 4 (Transcript from the White House):
But, unfortunately, since you guys were born — which doesn’t seem that long ago to me — (laughter) — maybe it does to you — the cost of going to college has more than doubled. And that means students have to take out more loans. It’s now to the point where the average student who borrows to pay for college graduates with about $25,000 worth of debt — $25,000. And Americans now owe more for their student loans than they do on their credit cards.
So we can’t price the middle class out of a higher education. We’ve got to make college more affordable. That’s why we fixed a broken student loan system that was giving tens of billions of dollars to big banks, and we said, let’s use that money to help more people afford college. That’s why we strengthened aid for low-income students. (Applause.) That’s why we fought to set up a new, independent consumer watchdog agency that’s now working with every student and their parents to access a simple factsheet on student loans and financial aid, so you can make your own choices, the best choices, about how to pay for college. We call it “Know Before You Owe.” Know before you owe.
So if you agree with me, then I need all of you — I see a lot of cell phones here and a lot of — (laughter) — all kinds of stuff — (laughter) — I want you to send a message to Congress. Tell them, “don’t double my rate.” You should — “don’t double my rate.” You should call them, you should e-mail them, write on their Facebook page, tweet them. (Applause.) Teach your parents how to tweet. (Laughter.) And use the hashtag #dontdoublemyrate. Don’t double my rate. Don’t double it. (Applause.) I asked some students at the University of North Carolina and the University of Colorado and the University of Iowa to do this last week, and they got it trending worldwide for a while. There were, of course — there were more of them than there were of you. I had Jimmy Fallon’s help. (Laughter.)”
So while it’s blatantly obvious that student loans are on the president’s radar, it makes you wonder how much he actually will act on keeping interest rates low. With all of the other things going on, such as our wars abroad, health care, same-sex marriage and so many other things, will this really be a priority for Obama or whomever our next future president will be?
It’s up for us to make sure our voices are heard. Take our president’s advice and stay active on social media and make sure to contact your local congressmen. Make sure they’re aware of what it takes to get a decent education in today’s economy. Your voice needs to be heard.
Want to learn more about college loans and what they mean? This article on CBS News does a great job of breaking down the difference in college loans. So does this one from Reuters.