NEA Joins Obama In Call For Lower Student Loan Rates
By Tim Walker
On July 1, more than 7.4 million students with federal student loans will see their interest rates double from 3.4 to 6.8 percent unless Congress steps in to keep them low. For each year Congress allows the rate to double, the average student with these loans will rack up an additional $1,000 in debt. This week, President Obama has been travelling cross the country urging Congress to take immediate action and extend lower rates for student loans.
If none is taken, higher student loan interest rates would be an additional burden on a still-fragile U.S. economy and students are taking on increasing amounts of debt to earn a degree.
This week, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel seconded the call to keep student loan interests low.
“We agree wholeheartedly with President Obama,” said Van Roekel. “Congress needs to act quickly to keep the American dream within reach of millions of Americans, because all Americans should have access to high-quality higher education, regardless of their race, income, age, gender, or where they live.”
Renatae Cuffee, a junior at Delaware State University, urged lawmakers to consider the needs of students, who, after all, are the nation’s future teachers, nurses, doctors, scientists, and entrepreneurs. Cuffee juggles a full course load in elementary education, a part-time tutoring job, and parenting her two children.
“Even students with part-time jobs can’t afford to sustain their schooling and their living,” Cuffee warned. “And, at the end of the day, if they can’t afford to put food on their table or a roof over their heads, college is going to go.”
Unfortunately for Cuffee and aspiring educators like her, GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Republicans in Congress just don’t get it. Although Romney supports keeping interest rates from ballooning, this turnabout contradicts his unwavering support for Rep. Paul Ryan’s dream-killing budget proposal, which would slash Pell Grants for more than 9 million students seeking a college education.
And then there’s the case of U.S. Rep. Todd Akin.
In explaining his position that the federal government should not play any role in making higher education affordable, the Missouri Republican and candidate for the U.S. Senate said “America has got the equivalent of the stage three cancer of socialism because the federal government is tampering in all kinds of stuff it has no business tampering in.”
Obama ridiculed Akin’s comment at a rally at the University of Iowa on Tuesday.
“Stage-three cancer? I don’t know where to start,” Obama said to laughter from the students. “What do you mean? What are you talking about? Just when you think you’ve heard it all in Washington, somebody comes up with a new way to go off the deep end.”
The president also scoffed at suggestions from many Republicans that he is pushing the student loan to “distract” voters from the economy.
“What economy are they talking about?” Obama asked. “You are the economy. If you’ve got skills, if you’ve got talents, if you’re starting a business, if companies are locating here in Iowa because it’s got a well-trained workforce, that’s the economy. That’s how we’re going to compete. Making sure our next generation earns the best education possible is exactly America’s business. Making sure that education is available to everybody and not just the few — that is America’s business. Our future depends on it.”