From the Daily: Stop student loan hikes

BY THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Published April 30, 2012

In today’s economy, college has become an almost necessary investment in order to secure a job. It is an enormous expense that millions of students have to deal with every day. Student loans, such as the Stafford loan and Pell Grants, can take many years to pay off and continue to be a financial burden after graduating from college, with increasing interest rates not making payments any easier. The House of Representatives voted on Friday to put a freeze on the student loan interest rate increase and continue to subsidize at a lower rate. While it is commendable that the House is working to put a freeze on these loans in a fiscally responsible manner, money should not be taken out of the Prevention and Public Health Fund in order to compensate for the subsidy.

The College Cost Reduction and Access Act, passed five years ago, lowered the interest rate on Stafford student loans from 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent. For the average student loan balance of $23,000, this increase in interest rate would cost about $40 extra per month for 10 years following graduation. The College Cost Reduction and Access Act is set to expire on July 1st of this year. The House of Representatives, however, has passed a measure that would keep interest rates at 3.4 percent. To fund this, they would pull money from the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which supports breast and cervical cancer screenings, prenatal tests for birth defects and child immunizations.

Maintaining low interest rates for college students should not be a partisan issue. Many students are deterred from attending college because of the sheer amount of money they will have to pay back in the future from student loans. Unfortunately, for many prospective college students, borrowing from parents is simply not an option. According to Rob French of Bridge Magazine, University of Michigan students graduate with an average debt of $27,828. This substantial amount of money cannot be repaid quickly, and thus causes students to live with this financial burden through their 20s and beyond. Measures to reduce these interest rates on student loans should be thoroughly explored.

This is a pressing issue that the House of Representatives, the Senate and the President need to come together to solve. While the House of Representatives voted to extend the subsidy for one year, they argue that the only way to finance this measure is to cut funding from the Prevention and Public Health Fund. Many have coined this as a “politically motivated” move that takes money away from services important to women. Approval ratings for Congress are already extremely low, and this inability to communicate and cooperate exemplifies their ineffectiveness and blatant disregard for a suitable compromise.

A college degree is invaluable in today’s economy. It is the government’s responsibility to help reduce interest rates on these loans and to make the financial burden of paying for college as feasible as possible. Affordable student loans are an issue that should extend beyond party lines. The future workforce of our nation may have to pay for the government’s inability to form a viable solution on how to reduce interest rates for students.