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Washington Memo: We must stop the student loan interest increase in its tracks

Between soaring tuition payments and mounting student debt, middle class families all across New Hampshire are having a tough time putting their kids through college. And if Congress fails to act this week, it’s going to get even harder.

On Monday, the fixed interest rate on subsidized Stafford loans is scheduled to double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. If Congress doesn’t step in, Granite State students who rely on these loans will be forced to pay an average of $1,000 extra each year.

We can’t let that happen. At a time when a college education has never been more important – or expensive – the last thing Congress should do is put higher education even further out of reach for our young people.

Hardworking families across the country are already saddled with unprecedented levels of student loan debt. At more than $1 trillion, total student loan debt nationwide now tops credit card debt.

Here in New Hampshire, the outlook is especially bleak. Our students graduate from college with an average debt burden of more than $30,000, the highest of any state in the country. We want to be first in the nation, but not in student debt.

During student roundtables and a tele-town hall meeting with thousands of Granite Staters, I’ve heard from dozens of students, families and educators who are deeply concerned about a rate increase.

I’ve spoken with students at Nashua Community College, River Valley Community College and Plymouth State University who count on student loans to pay for their education and who know they will go on to graduate with staggering debt burdens.

I’ve heard from a grandmother in Salem who’s concerned for her grandson, who graduated from college in 2012 with a debt of more than $100,000.

I’ve talked to a middle class mother in Plymouth whose two sons – one a rising college senior, the other an entering freshman – are deeply disheartened by the level of debt they’ll need to take on to pay for their education.

These families aren’t asking for much. They’re not looking for a handout. They don’t expect paying for college to be easy. They just want a chance to help their kids get a good education and build a brighter future. It’s not too much to ask for, and the last thing they should have to worry about is the government making it harder.

That’s why I’ve co-sponsored a bill in Congress called the Student Loan Relief Act, which would freeze the student loan interest rate at 3.4 percent for the next two years. This bill isn’t a perfect fix or a permanent solution. But it will protect students and families from a harmful rate increase on Monday and give Congress time to address the underlying problem: the rapidly rising cost of higher education.

We can’t allow the United States to become a country where higher education is a luxury reserved for the few. Keeping higher education within the reach of every young person who is willing to work hard is not just important for students, it’s important for our entire economy.

Jobs in the 21st century economy will increasingly require some form of higher education, whether it’s a diploma from a four-year college, a degree from a community college or a technical certification. To keep America’s competitive edge in the global economy, we must ensure our young people have the education and skills they need to meet the ever-changing needs of employers. And that means doing everything we can to ensure that young people have affordable pathways to higher education.

So let’s prove to Granite State students and middle-class families we can take a common-sense step to keep higher education within reach by preventing this rate increase. And once we do, let’s get to work on a long-term plan to address college affordability and help lay the foundation for prosperity for the next generation.

(U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster represents New Hampshire’s Second Congressional District.)

Legacy Comments7

It is not student loans which are escalating costs and stopping families from being able to afford college, it is the system itself. Nowhere is that more obvious than in the UNH system. The salaries and layers of hierarchy are ridiculous. The tuition is obscene for in state students whose parents pay for the university system through property taxes. 2% ess interest on a $80,000 student loan is not going to make that kind of money any easier to pay off. Democrats and progressives have been talking about "education" and the need for more funding for decades and every time we sink more money into it and still it is not enough. Sorry Annie, nice partisan piece but you are totally incorrect on every point.

Kuster is a poser, as the young folks say. All hat and no cattle.

Two great posts Jim & gdn1. Our state colleges spend taxpayer money like it grows on trees. Just look where that money is spent, and we all see that our state colleges are run very poorly. I am seeing more and more folks have their kids attend out of state colleges, because it is cheaper than going to NH colleges.

Not one word about Ms. Kuster's "long-term plan to address college affordability". Has college affordability not been a concern for years before this coming Monday? Fixing the root cause is always "next" to look at. How about a Taxpayer/Student Loan Relief Act, which would cut back the 6 and 7 figure salaries that professors and college leaders are paid or a moratorium on building projects for fancy dorms and stadiums. These colleges live off of government school loans and taxpayer money from all levels, let the government set down some rules or cut off the money.

And, the politicians who are responsible for this policy-college grads with 5 and 6 figure bills- all tout and spout how the USA needs to get better at teaching our kids to read, or in math and the sciences. How we currently lag behind and how we need to stay at the top. Hypocrites. It doesn't work this way. Education has no business being about a free market luxury item.

FACTS for readers to ponder: “Keep student loan rates low, Republicans say in address. … Rep. Luke Messer, R-Indiana, accused President Barack Obama in the weekly Republican address of rejecting a House Republican plan on political grounds, saying the president himself had proposed a similar measure in his annual budget. ‘His maneuvers are yet another example of the arrogance of power that has taken root in this administration, and it prevents us from addressing the people’s priorities,’ Messer said. …Republicans argue that Obama basically agrees with their approach, which would tie the student loan rate to economic factors instead of leaving it up to Congress.”.....Queston? if Kuster & democrats support it and Republican support it where lies the problem? ? OBAMA

Yup O has to keep the revenue stream flowing. He counts on his supporters not knowing what is going on. They have not figured out that he is like a used car salesman that tells you the little old lady just drove the car to church on Sunday. What folks need to know is that if the govt tries to run anything, it will cost you more.

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