Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (NY-12), Congressman Charles Rangel (NY-13) and Congressman Gregory Meeks (NY-5) stood in solidarity with students and members of higher education advocacy groups near Hunter College today to demand that Congress act immediately to stem the doubling of student loan interest rates.
"On Monday, July 1, millions of hopeful, young Americans will find themselves between a rock and a hard place, if Congress doesn't act to prevent the doubling of Stafford Loan interest rates, which will increase from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. Instead of preventing an increase that could be as high as a $4,500 jump per student, Congress has decided to go on holiday for the Fourth of July. For many who are already struggling, this additional cost will mean that the dream of a better life for themselves or their children must be deferred or denied. I am urging my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, to go back to D.C. to prevent saddling these young students with even more debt," Congresswoman Maloney said.
"In order to sustain America's strength and prosperity in the 21st century, we must make affordable higher education a national priority. Anyone who aspires to advance their education should have the opportunity to do so -- without incurring debilitating amounts of student debt. While Democrats and Republicans disagree in many areas, we should all agree that improving the affordability and accessibility of higher education is good for America. Now is the time to double our investments in young people, not double their rates," Congressman Rangel said.
Reps. Maloney, Meeks and Rangel are co-sponsors of H.R. 1595, the Student Loan Relief Act, which would delay the rate hikes for two years, in order to give Congress time to come to a consensus on a bi-partisan, long-term solution. They recently joined 194 Democratic colleagues in signing a discharge petition to bring the bill to the floor. A discharge petition requires the House to consider the legislation once a majority of Members of Congress (218) have signed it.
Current statistics regarding student loan debt in the United States are harrowing. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau estimates that student loan debt totals over $1 trillion, making it the largest form of consumer debt in the country. A new report by the Joint Economic Committee, of which Congresswoman Maloney is the ranking House member, found that two-thirds of recent graduates have an average of $27,200 in student loan debt, which constitutes about 60 percent of their annual earnings. If Congress fails to freeze the interest rate at 3.4 percent, loans could increase by $4,500, per student, according to the Joint Economic Committee Report. Further, the rate hike will increase college costs for over 7 million students. Already, two out of every five student loan borrowers fall behind in their payments during the first five years of repayment.
This is no time to be away on holiday. Reps. Maloney, Meeks and Rangel are imploring their congressional colleagues to get back to work to protect the futures of America's bright, young minds. Many of their fellow Democrats -- some of whom couldn't make today's event -- advocacy groups and students feel the same way:
"House Republicans must act now to prevent a catastrophic doubling of student loan interest rates. Recent college graduates are already saddled with massive student loans during one of the worst job markets and should not have to worry about paying double the current interest rate when they can least afford it. Congress bailed out the big banks when they needed help, and I urge Speaker Boehner and the House Republican Majority to act now to stop these unnecessary and exorbitant interest rate hikes," said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (NY-10)
"College students and their parents need help to afford the rising costs of a college education. Having interest rates double will force families into decades of debt or having their children skip college. It is yet another sad story of the Republican House leadership bowing to its most radical members rather than govern responsibly and seeking a compromise with Democrats. The only people who suffer from such a governing policy -- or lack of a governing policy -- are the American people," said Rep. Eliot Engel (NY-16)
"While the Republican Leadership has dismissed the House for another recess, more than 7 million New York students and their families will see their college loan rates skyrocket on July 1. At a time when we should be doing all we can to help families and students with the high costs of a college education, this is instead the exact opposite of what the American people want to see from their leaders. The clock is ticking and unfortunately, it is our young people who will pay the price if Congress doesn't act quickly to address this urgent need," said Rep. Joe Crowley (NY-14)
"An affordable and quality college education should be readily available, but too many students today are facing crippling student loan debt. Because of Republican inaction, millions of students and families will face higher student interest rates that they simply can't afford. It's not too late for Congress to take action and bring legislation to the floor that would keep student loan interest rates affordable," said Rep. Steve Israel (NY-3)
"It is disappointing and frankly unacceptable that because of Congress' failure to act, student loan rates are poised to double. Congress must do everything it can to rein in the cost of college, not drive it up for millions of students," said Congresswoman Nita Lowey (NY-17). "That's why I continue to urge my Republican colleagues to hold a vote in the House to freeze student loan rates."
"I'm a student with over $11,000 in unsubsidized and subsidized federal Stafford loans. I'm not alone in my struggle with student debt, not alone in having parents who invest all they can into my education. But I'm falling short due to the financial inaccessibility. I am not alone in my desire to push Congress to make sure the future generations of students are not taking on another trillion dollars of student debt. Education is a right, not a privilege, and I will continue to be an advocate for students getting a debt-free education," said Alyssia Osorio, a New York student.
"Stafford loans helped me pay my way through college. I am a lifelong New Yorker, but there is no way that I would have been able to keep living here without those loans. As it stands, I have nearly $10,000 in student loan debt, but I'm paying it off. I can't imagine what it would be like for younger students looking to take out loans at twice the interest rate that I currently pay," said Marryane DeLeo, an intern in Congresswoman Maloney's district office.
"Education liberates. Student loan debt debilitates. I trust that Congresswoman Maloney and her colleagues will combat this impediment to our freedom and to our dreams, collaborate to depress interest rates, maintain college accessibility and affordability, and champion student success," said Ben Joson, President of Hunter College's Undergraduate Student Government.
"In a time of high unemployment, tuition hikes, inflated textbook prices, and cuts to the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and other financial aid programs, students are forced to turn to loans to pay for college. Thousands of students across New York State are calling on their congressional leaders to stop the clock and freeze interest rates on student loans," said Aileen Sheil, Queens College student and Chair of the New York Public Interest Research Group's (NYPIRG) Board of Directors.
"With the Higher Education Act of 1965 up for reauthorization next year, Congress should pass an extension of the current program until we can figure out how to address the issue of student debt and college affordability. We need an extension of the current law so we can figure out what to do," said NYPIRG's Higher Education Advocate, Kevin Stump. "These reforms should be part of a larger discussion that addresses tuition, textbooks, and federal, state, and institutional financial aid."