It’s time for student debt, round 2!
Student loans have come to the political foreground this election season, putting millions of debt-afflicted college students in the middle of a two-party tug of war.
Interest rates on Stafford student loans are set to double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1. The higher rate would raise yearly loan payments up to an additional $1,000 for some students. Stafford student loans are among the most common and easiest to get, with around 7.5 million undergraduates benefitting from one. Practically anyone is eligible to receive one.
The fascinating thing is that both President Obama with the democrats and assumed-republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney support a measure that would keep those interest rates low.
The one-year Interest Rate Reduction Act, a republican-introduced bill, passed in the House of Representatives on April 27. The bill would pay for itself by extracting $6 billion from Obama’s health care overhaul. The White House has said it would veto the bill; democrats would rather fund the low rate by by taking away subsidies from oil companies.
So what’s the problem?
The problem is YOU, dear student — more specifically, your vote.
Both candidates are vying for attention from the college voter. Since the 2008 election Obama has seen an 18 percent drop (down from 78 percent) in support among 18- to 34-year-olds. But Romney is even farther behind, with only 34 percent in the same age range showing support for him. Probably it has something to do with the fact that he said it’s no big deal to borrow $20,000 from your parents in a speech at an Ohio university last Friday.
Obama recently finished up a three-state college tour, spouting the importance of an affordable education for all. Romney has made one school visit of his own, insisting that Obama has “failed” young Americans.
Yes, both parties agree that the rate should remain low. But neither have created a long-lasting plan to achieve this.
Each of their plans lasts only for ONE YEAR. Just long enough to get them elected. Convenient.
White House officials have anonymously admitted that a key goal for Obama’s re-election is to try and register as many new voters as possible. College students are the political pawn in the presidential race, with our economic status as the bait. The focus isn’t on us and our debt situation — it’s on the poll booth.
The problem of student debt is not going to go away after a year. No matter what party line they fall under, someone needs to take seriously the concerns about our future, not just for their own political goals. How about someone fights for putting consumer protections back onto student loans? Or works to create a student debt limit that would cap interest on loans before they reach levels impossible to repay? Or maybe someone could speak up about how obscenely high college tuition has become and that student loan debt wouldn’t even be an issue if college costs hadn’t ballooned so much.
In the meantime, I hope that everyone gets to enjoy the super-special, just-for-you, year-long extension on low interest rates for federal student loans. Remember to go hit the poll booth in November with a wooden club.